The U.S. Forest Service released a summary of public comments on changes to the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest. The takeaway is that the majority of the comments are in favor of leaving the rule in place in Alaska, which limits most road building in wilder parts of the forest.
Over 140,000 people submitted an opinion on the controversial topic. Back in August, the Forest Service said it would consider the state’s ask for an exemption that would make it easier to build new roads through the federal land.
It was prompted by a decades-long battle over access to timber and mining.
But the themes expressed in most of the comments suggest the Tongass is more valuable without the addition of new roads. People mentioned the tourism and fishing industries as examples of business that could be negatively impacted.
Though the consensus was to essentially do nothing, the Forest Service is still working on plans to create an Alaska-specific rule.
The agency plans to release a draft environmental impact statement that the public can comment on this summer.
- President Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to get money for a border wall that Congress refused to fund. He plans to divert $3.6 billion from military construction accounts, and that could drain money from Alaska projects.
- Gov. Dunleavy's proposed budget does away with about 25% of K-12 funding and cuts the University of Alaska system’s funding by 41%. Sitka School District's superintendent says, "If implemented, it will decimate public education in Alaska."
- Winter storms and blustery weather buffeting the Bering Sea this month have reduced sea ice coverage by almost 25% since late January. Sea ice in the Bering Sea is typically solid and stable this time of year, but scientists and communities are observing large areas of open water, and where there is ice, much of it is shifting.
- Anchorage resident Katie Van says she was charged undue sales taxes on clothing she bought from outside of Alaska. But LuLaRoe says they fixed their sales tax automation software and already made refunds.