It’s Wednesday, June 16, and President Biden plans to protect the Tongass National Forest.

The Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska isn’t just home to 800-year-old trees, bald eagles, black bears, pristine rivers, and craggy mountains. The federally protected, 17-million-acre temperate rainforest is also one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. In 2020, less than a month before the presidential election, then-President Donald Trump opened up 9 million of those acres to logging and other development. Now, the Biden administration is moving to reverse that decision.

On Friday, the White House announced that it will repeal or replace Trump’s revision of the “roadless rule,” a 2001 policy that prohibited new roads in the Tongass and other roadless areas in national parks. Logging trees requires cutting large roads through forests to get to the desirable timber and then transport it out. Alaska Republicans, including Senator Lisa Murkowski, had long sought to lift the roadless rule in parts of the Tongass to allow logging. Trump’s revision granted their wish.

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The Biden administration will officially publish its intent to revise the rule later this summer before hammering out final plan details over the following two years. Biden could ultimately decide to make some acres available to loggers while protecting others. But it’s clear that the entire 9 million acres that Trump wanted to open up — more than half of the national forest — are no longer on the table. 


Zoya Teirstein

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The Smog

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Adam Mahoney

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