Changes to Roadless Rule puts Alaska’s old-growth forests at risk

Process to write Alaska-specific rule could open protected areas to logging.

Tongass National Forest. Photo: John Schoen

TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST, ALASKA (August 2, 2018) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the State of Alaska to begin to write an Alaska-specific version of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, commonly known as the “Roadless Rule.” The Roadless Rule, finalized under the Clinton Administration, generally prohibits roads and logging in Inventoried Roadless Areas on National Forests nationwide with some exceptions for safety, mining, and utility projects. The current Roadless Rule is incorporated into the 2016 Tongass Land Management Plan, which provides separate and distinct protections for roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. Creating an Alaska-specific version of the Roadless Rule could lessen existing safeguards for the Tongass National Forest, while making the Tongass Land Management Plan vulnerable to changes that would further limit protections.

 “Over half of the big old trees have been cut in Southeast Alaska, and the Roadless Rule is key for protecting what is left,” said Susan Culliney, Policy Director for Audubon Alaska. “The Tongass National Forest is just beginning to implement a transition away from the unsustainable practice of old-growth clearcutting, and we fear the Roadless Rule modification could be the thread that unravels the entire Tongass Land Management Plan.”

“We hope that policymakers will see the forest for the trees and realize that big trees and unbroken landscapes are the very foundations of a healthy Alaskan economy,” continued Culliney. “The birds, fish, and wildlife are the true engines of economic growth in Southeast Alaska and they all depend on intact old-growth forests.”

The USDA indicated that the administrative process will begin later this summer. The new Alaska version of the Roadless Rule could apply to both the Tongass National Forest as well as to the Chugach National Forest in Southcentral Alaska.

About Audubon

Since 1977, Audubon Alaska's mission is to conserve the spectacular natural ecosystems of the state, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats, for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. Audubon Alaska uses science to identify conservation priorities and support conservation actions and policies, with an emphasis on public lands and waters. Audubon Alaska is a state office of the National Audubon Society. Learn more at

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more how to help at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Susan Culliney, Policy Director, Audubon Alaska,, 907-276-7034

Rebecca Sentner, Communications Manager, Audubon Alaska,, 907-276-7034


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