In yet another noteworthy reversal of Trump-era regulatory policy, the Biden administration announced this week its plans to “repeal or replace” a 2020 move that would have facilitated a expansion of logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, as The Hill reports.
The move to undo a Trump administrative action that set the stage for the potential development of a portion of old-growth Alaskan forest is sure to be heralded by environmental activists, but will attract the ire of Republicans in the state, according to the Washington Examiner.
Last year, the Trump administration exempted the national forest from a restriction known as the “roadless rule,” paving the way for potential logging and development projects to commence inside the area that spans more than 9 million acres.
The Hill noted that according to 2016 data compiled by the Forest Service, the Tongass represents one of the most significant carbon sinks in the entire country, in that the trees within it absorb excess carbon from the air, reducing the negative effects of climate change. As such, environmentalists have argued that the Trump rule was poised to have a deleterious impact well beyond the immediate area.
Josh Hicks, senior campaign manager for the Wilderness Society explained, according to the Examiner, that “The Tongass, in particular, stores more carbon than any other national forest, and is home to pristine wildlife and wildlands,” adding that “the livelihoods of thousands of people who live in Southeast Alaska depend on it remaining intact.”
Trump administration officials, however, contended that the decision would boost economic opportunity in rural Alaska, eliminate unwieldy federal regulation, and do so with only minimal impact to the environment, given that only 186,000 acres would be opened to timber harvesting, a position with which Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – a lawmaker with whom Biden has sought to establish a cooperative relationship – has long agreed.
Last October, Murkowski praised the Trump administration’s decision opening up the region to development, saying, “The Tongass is home to many Alaskans who want what most Americans take for granted – the opportunity to live, work, and raise their families in the communities in which they grew up.”
Murkowski also noted at the time that removing the Tongass from the purview of the roadless rule would afford locals greater access to broadband technology, regional transportation, recreational opportunities, and “affordable and renewable energy.”
However, much to the detriment of Alaskans seeking a more robust economic future, it is clear that in the eyes of Biden administration officials, acceding to the demands of radical environmentalist interest groups is a much more pressing priority.