Tongass Roadless Rule Exemption Moving Forward

Prince of Wales Spruce Grouse chicks in the Tongass National Forest.

For nearly two decades, the federal Roadless Rule has prohibited road-building and logging on nearly 60 million acres of the country’s most pristine national forest land. Among the areas currently protected is more than half of the nearly 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest in Alaska, which is part of the largest remaining temperate rainforest on Earth. 

In 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue directed the U.S. Forest Service to write an Alaska-specific rule, following the state’s petition to once again drop the Tongass from the Roadless Rule. The agency is accepting public comments on this misguided plan through December 17. You can send public comments to the Forest Service through our Action Center.

Meanwhile, legislation to codify the Roadless Rule has been introduced in both chambers of Congress. The Roadless Area Conservation Act, introduced by Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), would protect National Forest land in 39 states from logging and road building, including the Tongass. Audubon urges swift passage of this bill through Congress.

The Tongass hosts exceptional birds, including the Prince of Wales Spruce Grouse and the Queen Charlotte Goshawk, a subspecies of Northern Goshawk found in southeast Alaska and coastal British Columbia that hunts and breeds exclusively in old-growth forests. The Marbled Murrelet—a seabird that nests in tufts of moss found on massive limbs of large coastal trees and is considered endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List—also finds refuge here. Cutting the old-growth woods and building roads where these creatures live fragments their habitat, which can affect breeding success for some species.