The Proposed Alaska Roadless Rule

The Proposed Alaska Roadless Rule
August 28, 2020
Inventoried roadless areas (IRAs) are areas of the National Forest System (NFS)
identified administratively by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Forest
Anne A. Riddle
Service (FS). IRAs are managed according to regulations, known as roadless rules, that
Analyst in Natural
limit timber harvesting, road construction, and road reconstruction within designated
Resources Policy
areas. Although IRAs occur in multiple states, this report refers only to IRAs in Alaska

and the FS’s proposed rulemaking for Alaska roadless area management.

IRA management in Alaska has generated particular controversy. Alaska contains the
nation’s two largest national forests, the Tongass and the Chugach. Approximately 14.8 mil ion acres of NFS
lands in Alaska are designated IRAs; they cover almost 67% of the state’s NFS acres. Alaska national forests can
be regional y significant settings for economic sectors such as forestry, commercial fishing, and tourism. Alaska’s
national forests also are unique ecological resources, containing large, undeveloped tracts of rare ecosystems,
such as temperate rainforest. Thus, the scale of the proposed rule, and its potential impacts to NFS lands and
resources and to adjacent communities, has generated interest.
In January 2018, the State of Alaska requested that the USDA consider creation of a state-specific rule to exempt
the Tongass National Forest from the currently applicable roadless rule, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule
(2001 Rule). The FS agreed to undertake this rulemaking and published the proposed rule and draft environmental
impact statement (DEIS) on October 17, 2019. The FS’s proposed rule specifies that the 2001 Rule shal not apply
to the Tongass National Forest. As such, the proposed rule would remove al 9.2 mil ion IRA acres in the Tongass
from roadless designation, and the 2001 Rule’s prohibitions on timber harvesting, road construction, and
reconstruction would no longer apply to the forest. In addition, the proposed rule would establish an
administrative process al owing the Alaska Regional Forester to issue boundary corrections and modifications for
IRAs designated by the 2001 Rule in the Chugach National Forest.
The practical impact of the proposed rule’s provisions is difficult to predict, due to various factors. Timber
harvesting (and associated road works) in national forests is influenced by national and global timber market
conditions. Timber harvesting in the Tongass is additional y influenced by unique legal and management factors,
such as relatively long transportation distances and high costs, special provisions for timber export, and a planned
transition away from traditional timber types. The FS predicts the proposed rule wil have a minimal to moderate
beneficial effect on some local and regional economic activities (e.g., the forest products industry), no impact on
other activities (e.g., the fisheries industry), and a minimal adverse effect on the visitor industry. The FS predicts
effects on ecosystems and wildlife general y wil be similar to predicted effects under current management.
Stakeholders have expressed a variety of views on the proposed rule’s possible impacts. Some have expressed
concern that the proposed rule may have significant negative effects (e.g., to the visitor and fishing industries or to
ecosystems and wildlife), possibly without creating beneficial impacts (e.g., to the timber industry). Others expect
significant benefits to the timber industry and other sectors. The FS’s predicted impacts appear sensitive to
changes in assumptions regarding timber markets and other factors.
Debates surrounding the proposed Alaska Roadless Rule have generated interest on a national scale. Debates
surrounding the proposed rule often center on the potential impacts to communities and resources, either due to
the proposed rule itself or due to potential differences between the proposed rule and the 2001 Rule. Concerns
also have been raised about the State of Alaska’s use of federal funds during the rulemaking process. Congress
has engaged with both issues through oversight actions.


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Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1
National Forests in Alaska ................................................................................................ 2
The Tongass National Forest in Context ........................................................................ 3
Special Considerations for Tongass Roads and Timber ............................................... 4
History of Roadless Area Management in Alaska ................................................................. 5
The Roadless Rule ..................................................................................................... 6
Alaska and the Roadless Rule ...................................................................................... 7
The Proposed Alaska Roadless Rule................................................................................... 8
The Proposed Rule .......................................................................................................... 9
Timber Harvesting ..................................................................................................... 9
Road Construction and Reconstruction........................................................................ 11
Overal Impacts of the Proposed Rule ......................................................................... 12
Potential Impacts to the Chugach from the Proposed Rule.............................................. 13
Issues for Congress ....................................................................................................... 14
Impacts to Lands, Resources, and Communities: Stakeholder Views................................ 14
Concerns Regarding the Forest Service’s Rulemaking Process........................................ 15
Options for Congress ..................................................................................................... 16
Oversight ............................................................................................................... 16
Respond to Newly Issued Forest Service Roadless Regulations ...................................... 16

Legislative Action.................................................................................................... 17

Figures
Figure 1. National Forest System (NFS) and Inventoried Roadless Area (IRA) Lands in
Alaska ........................................................................................................................ 2

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 17

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Introduction
Inventoried roadless areas (IRAs) are areas of the National Forest System (NFS) identified
administratively by the Forest Service (FS) and managed according to regulations, known as
roadless rules, that limit timber harvesting, road construction, and road reconstruction. For
decades, the FS has inventoried and designated general y undeveloped areas of the NFS (under
various names) and has managed these areas to preserve their undeveloped qualities. In 2001, the
FS issued the first roadless rule and defined the modern-day IRAs, setting the framework for
modern FS roadless area policy. In 2018, the FS began work on a state-specific rulemaking for
Alaska IRAs, spurring interest in how such a rulemaking may affect associated NFS lands and
resources.
IRA management in Alaska, including the proposed rulemaking, has generated particular
controversy. Alaska contains the two largest national forests, the Tongass and the Chugach, which
comprise approximately 22.1 mil ion acres of land (over 34,000 square miles; see Figure 1).1
IRAs in Alaska are approximately 14.8 mil ion acres in extent and comprise almost 67% of NFS
land in Alaska.2 National forests in Alaska are significant for local communities and the overal
regional economy. Alaska’s national forests also are unique ecological resources because they
contain large, undeveloped tracts of rare ecosystems, such as temperate rainforest. Thus, the scale
of the proposed rule, and its potential impacts to NFS lands and resources and to adjacent
communities, has generated stakeholder interest.

1 Congressional Research Service (CRS) calculation from U.S. state land area data, Sonja Oswalt et al., Forest
Resources of the United States, 2017: A Technical Docum ent Supporting the Forest Service 2020 Update of the RPA
Assessm ent
, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service (FS), 2017 (hereinafter cited as Oswalt et al.,
Forest Resources); and USDA, FS, “ National Forest System Land Area” in Land Areas Report (LAR), 2019.
2 CRS calculation from inventoried roadless area (IRA) data, FS Legislative Affairs Office, March 20, 2020; U.S. state
land area data, Oswalt et al., Forest Resources; and USDA, FS, “ National Forest System Land Area” in Land Areas
Report (LAR)
, 2019.
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The Proposed Alaska Roadless Rule

Figure 1. National Forest System (NFS) and Inventoried Roadless Area (IRA)
Lands in Alaska

Source: Congressional Research Service, from Forest Service (FS), FS Geodata Clearinghouse, “Roadless Areas:
2001, Idaho, and Colorado Rules Combined,” and U.S. Geological Survey, Protected Areas Database of the
United States.
Congress has considered previously and continues to consider policy for roadless area
management, including roadless area management specific to Alaska, through legislative and
oversight activities. Congressional interest in the proposed Alaska Roadless Rule also has
generated policy proposals applicable to FS roadless areas nationwide.
This report provides an overview of the FS’s proposed rule and contextual information regarding
the affected NFS lands and resources. The report provides information on the national forests in
Alaska, particularly the Tongass National Forest, which has been the focus of both the proposed
rule and associated stakeholder attention. The report also describes the proposed rule’s contents
and its potential impacts. The report concludes with a discussion of issues for potential
congressional consideration related to the proposed rule and the FS’s rulemaking process.
National Forests in Alaska
Two national forests are in Alaska, the Tongass and the Chugach National Forests. The Tongass,
the largest national forest, is approximately 16.7 mil ion acres (more than 26,000 square miles) in
extent, of which approximately 9.2 mil ion acres (55%) are designated IRAs.3 The Chugach is
approximately 5.4 mil ion acres in extent, of which approximately 99% are designated IRAs.4

3 CRS calculation from IRA data, FS Legislative Affairs Office, March 20, 2020; and USDA, FS, “National Forest
System Land Area” in Land Areas Report (LAR), 2019. For further information, see FS, “Alaska Roadless Rule,” at
https://www.fs.usda.gov/roadmain/roadless/alaskaroadlessrule.
4 CRS calculation from IRA data, FS legislative affairs office, March 20, 2020; and USDA, FS, “National Forest
System Land Area” in Land Areas Report (LAR), 2019.
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There is little developed access to much of the Chugach, and its major resources and uses are fish,
wildlife, and recreation.5 The Tongass is an important setting for tourism and commercial
fisheries and a major historical source of timber for Alaska’s forestry industry.6 Therefore,
controversy regarding IRAs in Alaska has focused on the Tongass; for example, the FS’s
proposed rule (see “The Proposed Rule”) is largely focused on the Tongass National Forest, with
minor provisions related to the Chugach. This report provides additional background and context
on the Tongass’s lands and resources.
The Tongass National Forest in Context
The Tongass National Forest covers approximately 80% of the Southeast Alaska Panhandle’s land
area.7 It is a regional y significant setting for economic sectors such as forestry, commercial
fishing, and tourism. The Tongass also contains rare wildlife habitats, ecosystems, and visual
characteristics of national and international significance.8 These factors shape the debate
surrounding the roadless rule’s impacts on the Tongass.
Because it dominates the region’s land area, the Tongass is a regional y important setting for a
number of resource-based industries, including forestry, commercial fishing, tourism, and mining
and mineral development. In 2017, more than 28% of total employment in southeast Alaska was
in these four resource-related industries, with the visitor and seafood industries accounting for
90% of this figure.9 In addition, the Tongass is often the setting for regional transportation,
communications, and other infrastructure.10 Regional residents frequently depend on the Tongass
for subsistence hunting and fishing, cultural and sacred sites, and other uses.
The Tongass is also a unique ecological resource. The forests of southeast Alaska, including the
Tongass, comprise approximately 19% of the world’s temperate rain forest.11 In addition, the
Tongass is unique within the NFS in regard to the substantial amount of old-growth forest (see
text box on “Tongass Timber and the Young-Growth Transition,” below) present outside of
designated wilderness.12 The Tongass’s large tracts of intact ecosystems help to preserve the
region’s biodiversity, including habitat for over 300 species of birds and mammals, many of
which are found only in that region.13 In addition, southeast Alaska forests sequester large
quantities of carbon and play other important roles in the global carbon cycle.14

5 USDA, FS, “T he Setting and Planning Background: Chugach National Forest,” May 14, 2002, at
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENT S/stelprdb5334507.pdf.
6 USDA, FS, Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Rulemaking for Alaska Roadless Areas, R10-MB-867a, October
2019, pp. 2-21. Hereinafter cited as DEIS 2019.
7 FS, “About the Alaska Region,” at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r10/about-region.
8 DEIS 2019, “Background,” “Key Issue 1-Roadless Area Conservation,” and others.
9 DEIS 2019, T able 3.2-1. T he visitor industry accounts for approximately 60% of resource-based employment,
followed by seafood (30%), mining and mineral development (7%), and forestry (3%).
10 Because of the region’s island geography, residents primarily use air and water transportation to travel between
communities, although state and local roads may cross National Forest System (NFS) lands. Most of the NFS road
network is for timber harvesting and does not connect communities. DEIS 2019, p. 3-141.
11 Jane Wolken et al., “Evidence and Implications of Recent and Projected Climate Change in Alaska’s Forest
Ecosystems,” Ecosphere, vol. 2, no. 11 (2011), pp.1-35. T his forest type is also referred to as coastal temperate and
covers less than 0.5% of the Earth’s land area.
12 DEIS 2019, 3-20.
13 FS, Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan: Final Environmental Impact Statement, R10-MB-603a
(Washington, DC: January 2008), p. 3-9.
14 DEIS 2019, “Climate and Carbon,” and Heather Keith, Brendan Mackey, and David Lindenmeyer, “Re -evaluation of
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Special Considerations for Tongass Roads and Timber
The roadless rule places restrictions on timber harvesting, road construction, and road
reconstruction in specified areas. These issues are intertwined: the Tongass is an important source
of timber for the region, and the Tongass’s road transportation system is mostly in support of
timber harvesting.15 Thus, debate surrounding the roadless rule in Alaska often has centered on
timber activities in the Tongass.
Tongass Timber and the Young-Growth Transition
In the past decades, management of the Tongass National Forest has been shaped by shifting policies relating to
two classifications of forests, old growth and young growth:

Old growth: The final stage of forest development. Old growth can be defined many ways, often related to
forest characteristics (such as tree size, age, and number; canopy conditions; dead and down trees; debris;
and others)

Young growth: A relatively young forest that has regenerated after a major disturbance, such as wildfire or
extensive timber harvesting. In the Tongass, forests younger than 150 years in age are considered young
growth
.
Historical y, most timber harvesting in the Tongass has been of old-growth timber. However, old-growth timber is
associated with many of the Tongass’s unique qualities, such as habitat for sensitive wildlife species, and harvesting
old-growth timber is increasingly controversial.
In 2010, the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) announced the Tongass Transition Framework, a framework for
directing greater support from the Forest Service (FS) and other U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies to non-
timber industries deemed to be of importance to the Tongass region’s economy, such as recreation and fisheries.
In 2013, the Secretary further directed the FS to shift away from harvests of old-growth timber and toward
harvest of young-growth timber over a period of 10 to 15 years. The FS specified that the plan was intended to
conserve the Tongass’s “exceptional natural resources” while providing economic opportunities for local
communities. In 2016, the FS revised the Tongass’s land and resource management plan to reflect this planned
shift.
According to the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Alaska Roadless Rule, the FS plans for
the old-growth proportion of planned timber sales to be high initial y and to decrease over time as young-growth
timber becomes more economical y viable. The phased reduction in old-growth timber sales in the plan is
intended to al ow for regional timber industry adaptation over time.
Sources: USDA, FS, Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Rulemaking for Alaska Roadless Areas, R10-MB-867a,
October 2019; Letter from Thomas Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, to the Tongass Futures Roundable,
May 24, 2010; USDA, Office of the Secretary, Addressing Sustainable Forestry in Southeast Alaska,
Secretary’s Memorandum 1044-009, 2013; USDA, FS, Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Management
Plan,
R10-MB-769j, December 2016; USDA, FS, Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan
Final Environmental Impact Statement
, R10-MB-769e,f, December 2016.
Timber harvesting activity in the Tongass, as in the NFS general y, and timber industry
employment in southeast Alaska have declined from their peak levels in the 1970s and 1980s.16
From 2002 to 2017, the FS estimates the number of timber jobs directly supported by the Tongass

Forest Biomass Carbon Stocks and Lessons from the World’s Most Carbon -Dense Forests,” Proceedings of the
National Academ y of Sciences
, vol. 106, no. 28 (July 14, 2009), pp. 11635-11640. For additional information on forest
carbon, see CRS Report R46312, Forest Carbon Prim er, by Katie Hoover and Anne A. Riddle and CRS Report
R46313, U.S. Forest Carbon Data: In Brief, by Katie Hoover and Anne A. Riddle.
15 DEIS 2019, p. 3-113.
16 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Tongass National Forest: Forest Service’s Actions Related to its
Planned Tim ber Transition
, GAO-16-456, April 2016, hereinafter cited as GAO, Tongass National Forest, and DEIS
2019,
p. 3-28. According to GAO, timber harvests from the T ongass peaked at an annual average of approximately 494
million board feet in the 1970s and general southeast Alaska timber industry employment peaked at approximately
2,500 jobs in 1982.
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varied but declined overal .17 During this period, total Tongass-related timber harvest activities
supported about 41% of total timber industry employment in southeast Alaska, on average.18 In
2017, approximately 19.9 mil ion board feet of timber were harvested.19 General y, most timber
harvested in southeast Alaska is sent to other states and exported international y.20
Several legal and policy considerations shape timber harvesting in the Tongass. By law, the FS
cannot offer timber for sale unless the sale is positively appraised (sometimes referred to as
appraising positive)—that is, the estimated value of the timber exceeds the cost of conducting the
harvest.21 A number of factors specific to the Tongass—for example, the long distances and high
costs associated with transportation in the region, the low value of young-growth timber, and
others—affect whether sales appraise positive and can be offered.22 Although international and
interstate export of timber from Alaska NFS lands is al owed only under certain circumstances, a
policy al owing specified interstate and international exports is in place for timber harvested from
the Tongass, which affects the number of positively appraised sales.23
History of Roadless Area Management in Alaska
The history of roadless areas in Alaska is intertwined with the FS’s nationwide policies for
roadless area management. The FS has sought to identify NFS lands with undeveloped
conditions, and provide for special management of those lands, since early in its history. The FS
designated and managed undeveloped areas to preserve their character—for example, through
prohibiting road construction, motorized use, timber harvesting, and other actions—through
regulations from the 1920s through 1964.24 In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act,

17 In DEIS 2019, p. 3-28, the FS estimates that total T ongass-related timber employment declined from 173 jobs in
2002 to 24 jobs in 2017, with a “recent high” of 199 jobs in 2003. T otal timber industry employment in southeast
Alaska declined from 512 jobs in 2002 to 202 jobs in 2017, with a “recent high” of 562 jobs in 2003. Other FS sources
may estimate jobs related to the T ongass timber industry differently. For example, in FS, Jobs and Incom e: Economic
Contributions at a Glance in 2016, Tongass National Forest
, the FS estimates the T ongass “ forest products” industry
directly supported 320 timber jobs in 2016, compared with total T ongass-related timber employment of 151 jobs in
DEIS 2019. T his source does not estimate employment over time. It is unclear whether these sources measure
equivalent employment categories.
18 CRS, from DEIS 2019, p. 3-28.
19 DEIS 2019, p. 3-28, and GAO, Tongass National Forest.
20 Jean Daniels, Michael Paruszkiewicz, and Susan Alexander, Tongass National Forest Timber Demand: Projections
for 2015 to 2030
, FS, PNW-GT R-934, 2016, hereinafter cited as Daniels, Paruszkiewicz, and Alexander, Tim ber
Dem and
. In the context of the T ongass, export can refer to shipping to other areas of the United States or
internationally.
21 P.L. 116-6 §410. T he requirement to offer positively appraised sales is generally specified in annual Interior
appropriations bills.
22 Daniels, Paruszkiewicz, and Alexander, Timber Demand.
2336 C.F.R. §223.201 provides that unprocessed timber from national forests in Alaska may not be exported
internationally or out of the state of Alaska without prior approval from the Alaska Regional Forester. T he T ongass
Limited Export Policy establishes a limited program-level approval for interstate and international export of certain
unprocessed timber, although approval for other situations also may be sought. For more information, see the summary
and history of the T ongass Limited Export Policy at Tongass Land and Resource Managem ent Plan Final
Environm ental Im pact Statement
, Appendix H, R10-MB-769e,f, 2016. Congress also sometimes addresses T ongass
timber appraisal and export policies in annual Interior appropriations bills (e.g., P.L. 116-6 §410). Because timber sales
appraised for export use different price structures, the limited export policy may increase the number of timber sales
that appraise positive.
24 In the 1920s, the FS issued the so-called L regulations, which directed the Chief of the Forest Service to
administratively designate prim itive areas to be managed for “ primitive conditions of environment, transportation,
habitation, and subsistence.” Construction of permanent improvements and occupancy under special-use permits were
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The Proposed Alaska Roadless Rule

simultaneously designating many FS undeveloped areas as part of the National Wilderness
Preservation System (NWPS) and directing the FS to inventory other undeveloped areas for
possible NWPS inclusion.25 The FS conducted two inventories of NFS lands (Roadless Area
Review and Evaluation [RARE] I and II) under this authority, and both inventories were
chal enged in court. Legal decisions related to the inventories constrained FS management actions
in the relevant areas.26 In part due to these issues with the inventories, in the 1980s, Congress
simultaneously designated thousands of RARE I and II acres as wilderness and released
remaining RARE I and II acres back into multiple-use management. Management direction for
the remaining RARE I and II areas was determined at the national forest level, through individual
FS land and resource management plans (forest plans).27
The Roadless Rule
In late January 2001, the FS returned to administratively designating and managing undeveloped
NFS lands at the national level when it issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (for the
purposes of this report, the 2001 Rule).28 The 2001 Rule defined and designated modern IRAs,
which were based (in part) on RARE I and II areas not designated as wilderness. The rule
prohibited timber harvesting, road building, or road maintenance in those IRAs except under
specified conditions.29 When the 2001 Rule was issued, the FS indicated that several issues
warranted a nationwide rule, as opposed to the then-current system of roadless area management
at the forest level:
Cumulative Impacts of Roads and Timber Harvesting. The FS specified a
number of negative impacts of these activities in issuing the 2001 Rule, such as
fragmentation and degradation of habitat, increased slope instability and
landslides, reduced water quality for wildlife and human uses, and increased
human disturbances in remote areas (such as increased frequency of human-

not allowed in these areas. FS, “ Forest Service Policy Covering Preservation of Natural Areas,” Regulation L-20,
National Forest Manual, July 12, 1929, as amended August 7, 1930, and FS, “ Lands,” 1 Federal Register 1100, August
15, 1936. In 1939, the FS issued the so-called U regulations, which authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to designate
wilderness and the Chief of the Forest Service to designate wild areas. Roads, motorized transport, commercial timber
harvesting, and occupancy under special use permits were prohibited in both wilderness and wild areas. FS, “ Land
Use,” 4 Federal Register 3994, September 20, 1939. Prior to this, FS district foresters approved or planned the
administrative designation of wilderness areas in district recreation plans in several western states. Denni s Roth, “ T he
National Forests and the Campaign for Wilderness Legislation,” Journal of Forest History, vol. 28, no. 3 (1984).
25 P.L. 88-577.
26 See, for example, Parker v. United States, 448 F.2d 793 (10 th Cir. 1971), California v. Block, 690 F.2d 753 (9th Cir.
1982. For more information on these proceedings, see CRS Report R46504, Forest Service Inventoried Roadless Areas
(IRAs)
, by Anne A. Riddle and Adam Vann.
27 T he National Forest Management Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-588) requires the FS to prepare a comprehensive land and
resource management plan (forest plan) for each NFS unit. Forest plans specify desired resource conditions of the unit
and inform decisions on how uses of the unit will be balanced, pursuant to any additional statutory authorities or
requirements. See also CRS Report R43872, National Forest System Managem ent: Overview, Appropriations, and
Issues for Congress
, by Katie Hoover and Anne A. Riddle. For a summary of management provisions for roadless areas
in forest plans prior to the 2001 Rule, see FS, Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation, Final Environm ental Im pact
Statem ent,
November 2000, Volume 1, Ch.3.
28 FS, “Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation,” 66 Federal Register 3244, January 12, 2001. Hereinafter cited as
2001 Rule. T he 2001 Rule has not been classified to the Code of Federal Regulations.
29 For more information, see CRS Report R46504, Forest Service Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs), by Anne A.
Riddle and Adam Vann.
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caused fires.)30 Furthermore, the FS specified that forest-level management of
these issues might increase cumulative loss of roadless area characteristics
nationwide.
Management and Fiscal Constraints Created by the NFS Road Network.
When the 2001 Rule was issued, the NFS road system was over 386,000 miles
long.31 The FS argued that budget constraints, coupled with the size of the forest
road system, prevented the agency from managing the road system to required
safety and environmental standards.32 For example, in issuing the 2001 Rule, the
FS indicated there was an estimated $8.4 bil ion in deferred maintenance and
reconstruction on NFS roads, and the agency sought additional measures to
control the transportation share of its budget.33
Costs of Litigation: The FS asserted that controversy over roadless area
management had been a major point of conflict in land management, generating
“costly and time-consuming” litigation.34 The FS specified that issuing a
nationwide policy would reduce local appeals and litigation about activities
addressed in the rule, which could avoid future costs to the agency.
The Clinton Administration’s issuance of the 2001 Rule prompted more than a decade of conflict,
through two primary means: (1) the rule’s revocation and replacement with an alternate rule in
2005 by the George W. Bush Administration (2005 Rule) and (2) litigation chal enging both rules.
The 2005 Rule al owed state governors to submit petitions for individual rules for IRAs within
their respective states, substantial y altering the FS’s IRA policy.35 Between 2001 and 2011,
federal courts enjoined both the 2001 and the 2005 Rules.36 For a time, it was unclear which rule,
if any, governed FS management of roadless areas. However, in 2011, the 2001 Rule was returned
to effect.37
Alaska and the Roadless Rule38
As the legal and political conflicts regarding the roadless rules progressed over the decade, the FS
and stakeholders raised questions regarding the management of Alaska’s roadless areas—
specifical y, the application of the roadless rule to the Tongass.

30 2001 Rule, “Purpose and Need for the Roadless Area Conservation Rule”; 2001 Rule FEIS, “Purpose and Need.”
31 2001 Rule, “Purpose and Need for the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.”
32 2001 Rule, “Purpose and Need for the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.”
33 2001 Rule, “Purpose and Need for the Roadless Area Conservation Rule”; 2001 Rule FEIS, “Purpose and Need.”
34 2001 Rule, “Purpose and Need for the Roadless Area Conservation Rule”; 2001 Rule FEIS, “Purpose and Need.”
35 FS, “Special Areas; State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area Managemen t,” 70 Federal Register 25654, May
13, 2005, hereinafter cited as 2005 Rule. For a discussion of policy differences between the two rules, see CRS Report
R46504, Forest Service Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs), by Anne A. Riddle and Adam Vann, or Robert Glicksman,
“T raveling in Opposite Directions: Roadless Area Management Under the Clinton and Bush Administrations,”
Environm ental Law, vol. 34, no. 1143 (2004), pp. 1143-1208.
36 See, for example, Wyoming v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 277 F. Supp. 2d 1197, 1231 (D. Wyo. 2003);
California v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 468 F. Supp. 2d 1140 (N.D. Cal. 2006) . For further discussion of
litigation related to the roadless rules, see CRS Report R46504, Forest Service Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs), by
Anne A. Riddle and Adam Vann.
37 Before the 2001 Rule was reinstated, the FS issued individual roadless rules for two states, Colorado and Idaho. T he
2001 Rule does not apply to these states.
38 Adam Vann, CRS Legislative Attorney, American Law Division, contributed to this section.
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Before the 2001 Rule was issued, the FS grappled with how the rule would apply to Alaska. After
initial y proposing otherwise, the FS decided the 2001 Rule would apply immediately to Alaska,
with some limited exceptions.39 However, in 2003, the FS temporarily exempted the Tongass
from the 2001 Rule pursuant to settlement of a legal dispute with the State of Alaska over the
validity of the 2001 Rule.40
After the George W. Bush Administration issued the 2005 Rule, the FS took the position that
further Tongass-specific rulemaking was unnecessary and that timber harvesting in IRAs would
be managed in accordance with the forest plan unless changed through a state-specific
rulemaking.41 However, in 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruled that the
FS violated the Administrative Procedure Act in adopting the 2003 Tongass exemption.42 The
court thus vacated the exemption and reinstated the applicability of the 2001 Rule to the
Tongass.43 After an initial reversal by a three-judge panel, the district court decision was
ultimately upheld en banc by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2015.44 Since
then, the 2001 Rule has applied to the Tongass.
The Proposed Alaska Roadless Rule
In January 2018, the State of Alaska requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
consider creation of a state-specific rule to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001
Rule.45 The FS previously issued state-specific roadless rules for two states in response to their
petitions under the 2005 Rule.46 The FS subsequently published a notice of intent on August 30,
2018, to begin the environmental analysis process required to issue a new rule.47 The FS
published the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement on October 17, 2019.48 The
FS expects to publish a final environmental impact statement and final rule in 2020.49

39 2001 Rule, “Public Comments on the Proposed Rule.”
40 FS, “Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation; Applicability to the T ongass National Forest, Alaska,” 68 Federal
Register
75136, December 30, 2003. T he FS indicated that the exemption would be in place only until the agency was
able to promulgate a planned Alaska-wide roadless rule. Id. at 75138.
412005 Rule, “Summary of Public Comments and the Departments’ Responses.”
42 Organized Village of Kake v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 776 F. Supp. 2d 960, 976 (D. Alaska 2011).
Administrative Procedure Act, P.L. 79-404.
43 Id at 976-77.
44 Organized Village of Kake v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 795 F.3d 956, 970 (9th Cir. 2015).
45 Alaska: Letter from Andrew T . Mack, Commissioner, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, to Sonny Perdue,
Secretary of Agriculture, January 19, 2018.
46 For information on the state-specific rules for these two states, Colorado and Idaho, see CRS Report R46504, Forest
Service Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs)
, by Anne A. Riddle and Adam Vann. Utah also submitted a request for a
state-specific roadless rule in 2018. Utah’s request remains pending.
47 FS, “Roadless Area Conservation; National Forest System Lands in Alaska,” 83 Federal Register 44252, August 30,
2018.
48 FS, “Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation; National Forest System Lands in Alaska,” 84 Federal Register
55522, October 17, 2019. Hereinafter referred to as Proposed Rule 2019.
49 T he FS expected to publish the final environmental impact statement in April 2020 and the final rule in June 2020.
FS, “Alaska Roadless Rule Frequently Asked Questions,” at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/roadless/
alaskaroadlessrule/?cid=fseprd591995.
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The Proposed Rule
The FS’s proposed rule specifies that the 2001 Rule shal not apply to the Tongass National
Forest.50 As such, the proposed rule would remove al 9.2 mil ion IRA acres in the Tongass from
roadless designation, and the 2001 Rule’s prohibitions on timber harvesting, road construction,
and reconstruction would no longer apply to that land. Lands identified as suitable for timber
production that were deemed unsuitable solely due to roadless designation in the Tongass forest
plan would be designated as suitable for timber production under the proposed rule (see “Timber
Harvesting”).51 In addition, the proposed rule would establish an administrative process al owing
the Alaska Regional Forester to issue boundary corrections and modifications for IRAs
designated by the 2001 Rule in the Chugach National Forest.52
In developing the proposed rule, the FS considered six alternatives: the no-action alternative
(leaving the 2001 Rule in place), the preferred alternative (the proposed rule specifying full
exemption of the Tongass), and four additional alternatives. The additional alternatives comprise
a range of provisions relating to timber, roads, energy and mineral development, and
transportation projects, among others.
How the proposed rule would affect management of the Tongass is not yet clear and depends on a
number of external factors, such as timber markets. The FS’s anticipated effects are described
below, as specified in the draft environmental impact statement accompanying the proposed rule,
along with stakeholder concerns regarding such impacts.
Timber Harvesting
The proposed rule would exempt the Tongass from the 2001 Rule’s provisions regarding timber
harvesting, which prohibit timber harvesting in IRAs except under specified circumstances.53
Under the proposed rule, an additional 165,000 acres of old-growth timber and 20,000 acres of
young-growth timber would become suitable for timber production.54 These areas are currently
designated as unsuitable for timber production due to designation as IRAs under the 2001 Rule.
Under the current Tongass forest plan, about 230,000 acres of old-growth timber and 334,000
acres of young-growth timber are suitable for timber production.55 The majority of suitable old
growth would be added in areas “more distant from roads.”56

50 Proposed Rule 2019, p. 55528 (proposed codification at 36 C.F.R. §294.50).
51 T he FS is required to identify lands as suitable or unsuitable for timber production as part of the forest planning
process. T imber harvesting cannot occur on lands unsuitable for timber harvesting, except for certain specified
except ions (e.g., salvage sales). Under the 2016 T ongass Land and Resource Management Plan, some lands were
identified as unsuitable for timber production due t o their location in IRAs and otherwise would be deemed suitable for
timber harvesting. Under the proposed rule, these restrictions would be removed. For more information, see CRS
Report R45688, Tim ber Harvesting on Federal Lands, by Anne A. Riddle.
52 Proposed Rule 2019, p. 55528 (proposed codification at 36 C.F.R. §294.51).
53 For additional information on the timber provisions in the 2001 Rule, see CRS Report R46504, Forest Service
Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs)
, by Anne A. Riddle and Adam Vann.
54 DEIS 2019, p. 3-45 and p. 2-17.
55 According to DEIS 2019, young growth suitable acres “would increase slightly (3 through 6 percent ) under the action
alternatives.” It is unclear what percentage increase would apply to the preferred alternative. Suitable old-growth acres
would increase 72% for the proposed rule. DEIS 2019, p. 2-21.
56 CRS, calculation from DEIS 2019, T able 2-11, p. 2-26. According to this table, approximately 59% of suitable old
growth would be added in areas “ more distant from roads.” T he meaning of “ more distant from roads” is unclear.
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The practical impact of this provision is difficult to predict, due to a variety of factors. Timber
harvesting in national forests is influenced by national and global timber market conditions, and
timber harvesting in the Tongass is additional y influenced by regional economic factors.57 As
described above (see “Special Considerations for Tongass Roads and Timber”), these factors
affect whether timber sales appraise positive and can be offered.58 The factors particularly
influenced by global market conditions (e.g., timber prices, trade) cannot be easily predicted.
Thus, the FS’s expected effects of the proposed rule are sensitive to assumptions regarding these
factors.
The FS asserts that overal harvest levels are not expected to vary significantly under the
proposed rule, compared with those planned under the current Tongass forest plan.59 The FS
further states that the main effect of the proposed rule would be to increase flexibility in sale
development, spreading out the same general harvest level over increased acreage.60 The FS
expects the relative amount of old-growth and young-growth timber harvested under the proposed
rule would be the same.61 According to the FS, newly suitable old-growth areas may not be
economical y feasible to harvest, due to their remote nature and because the planned transition to
young growth is expected to continue.62 The FS predicts the rule would have a “minimal
beneficial” effect on the forest products industry.63
The proposed rule’s potential effect on timber harvesting has generated particular concern and
interest. Stakeholders have expressed various views on the topic, some (though not al ) of which
counter the FS’s conclusions. The FS’s predicted effects rely on assumptions regarding timber
market forces and adherence to planned timber harvest levels under the Tongass forest plan and
young-growth transition.64 These factors are not binding and therefore do not ensure harvest
levels wil remain the same (e.g., if trade or timber price conditions were more favorable than
predicted or if forest planning objectives changed).
Some have expressed concern that timber harvesting could be higher than predicted under the
proposed rule, particularly harvesting of old-growth timber, with concomitant impacts to lands
and resources.65 Although the FS predicts little additional old-growth harvest, 89% of the lands
that would become suitable for timber production are old growth. The conclusion that little
additional old-growth timber would be harvested under the proposed rule may be particularly
sensitive to assumptions in the analysis. However, in concurrence with the FS’s analysis, other

57 Unlike other national forests, Secretary of Agriculture must “seek to meet” market demand for timber from the
T ongass both annually and for each forest planning cycle (P.L. 101-626). Federal law and policy also control how, and
under what circumstances, timber from the T ongass may be exported from Alaska. For a history and summary of laws
related to the federal timber export ban, CRS Congressional Distribution Memorandum CD1302059, History of Export
Restrictions of Federal Logs from the Western Continental United States
, by Katie Hoover, is available to
congressional clients upon request. T he FS is also shifting away from old-growth logging and toward harvesting
younger timber stands, as part of a transition toward greater support for other regionally important industries, such as
fisheries and recreation. USDA, Office of the Secretary, Addressing Sustainable Forestry in Southeast Alaska ,
Secretary’s Memorandum 1044-009, 2013, and FS, Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan: Final
Environm ental Im pact Statement
, R10-MB-603a (Washington, DC: January 2008).
58 DEIS 2019, p. 3-44.
59 DEIS 2019, p. 3-154.

60 DEIS 2019, p. 3-154. T he FS is referring to the ability to develop and offer sales with positive appraisals.
61 DEIS 2019, p. 3-44.
62 DEIS 2019, p. 2-21, and DEIS 2019, p. 3-154.
63 DEIS 2019, p. 2-25 (T able 2-11).
64 DEIS 2019, p. 2-21.
65 For example, see Audubon Alaska, Keeping the Roadless Rule in AK, November 5, 2019.
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stakeholders have contended the proposed rule is unlikely to increase timber harvesting.66 The FS
did not analyze potential timber harvest under varying scenarios (e.g., different timber price or
trade situations), nor did it analyze the likelihood of those scenarios occurring.67
Road Construction and Reconstruction
The proposed rule would exempt the Tongass from the 2001 Rule’s provisions related to roads,
which prohibit road construction and reconstruction except in specified circumstances.68 FS
estimates of impacts of any new road construction or reconstruction due to the proposed rule are
based on a 2016 baseline, when the Tongass had 5,100 miles of roads, including both forest
transportation system roads and other roads.69 At that time, the FS anticipated an additional 1,000
miles of new roads would be built over the next 100 years and 500 miles of roads would be
constructed or reconstructed over decommissioned roadbeds.70
The practical implications of this provision are difficult to predict precisely, for a variety of
reasons. Roads in the Tongass are largely developed in support of timber harvesting, as opposed
to regional transportation purposes (although roads primarily for regional transportation do pass
through the Tongass).71 The FS specifies that more road miles under the proposed rule are
expected because the proposed rule would add areas suitable for timber harvest in relatively more
remote areas, which would require more road construction to reach.72 The amount of additional
road miles depends on the level of timber harvesting: if timber harvesting levels are lower than
anticipated, fewer additional road miles than expected may be added, whereas if timber
harvesting levels are higher than anticipated, more additional road miles than expected may be
added.73 Uncertainties surrounding road construction and reconstruction under the proposed rule
may be compounded by assumptions or uncertainties regarding timber harvesting levels (see
“Timber Harvesting”).
Some stakeholders have expressed concern that road construction may increase, with concomitant
fiscal and environmental impacts.74 One original purpose of the 2001 Rule was to control costs
associated with maintaining the existing NFS road network.75 As of 2019, the FS estimated the

66 Liz Ruskin, “How Would Lifting the Roadless Rule Change T ongass Logging? Not Much, Both Sides Say,” Alaska
Public Media, November 14, 2019.
67 DEIS 2019, “Issues Eliminated from Detailed Analysis: Changes in T imber Markets,” p. 1-10.
68 For additional information on road construction and reconstruction provisions in the 2001 Rule, see CRS Report
R46504, Forest Service Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs), by Anne A. Riddle and Adam Vann.
69 DEIS 2019, p. 3-144.
70 DEIS 2019, p. 3-144. T he FS specified that proposed expansions to the southeast Alaska regional road network
would cross NFS lands, though it is unclear whether the proposed road construction would be affected by either the
2001 Rule or the proposed rule. Under the 2001 Rule, federal aid highway projects are permitted under certain
circumstances, and the FS has granted requests to establish state and local highways in current IRAs. Furthermore,
some such roads were authorized through P.L. 109-59, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient T ransportation Equity
Act.
71 DEIS 2019, p. 3-113.
72 DEIS 2019, p. 2-24.
73 DEIS 2019, p. 3-148.
74 For example, see U.S. Congress, House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, Roads to Ruin: Exam ining the Im pacts of Rem oving National Forest Roadless Protections, T estimony
of Autumn Hanna, 116th Cong., 2nd sess., November 13, 2019, or Mark Kaelke, “ Fish and Fiscal Responsibility: Let’s
Protect the Roadless Rule,” Trout Unlim ited, December 10, 2019.
75 2001 Rule, “Purpose and Need for Action.”
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road maintenance backlog in Alaska to be $68 mil ion.76 In regard to the proposed rule, the FS
specifies that uncertainty exists regarding the funds to maintain the existing NFS road network
and that risks are associated with inadequate funding, such as increased safety hazards and
adverse effects to fish, water quality, and wildlife.77 However, the likelihood of future funding
shortfal s is unclear. The degree to which the FS’s analysis accounts for the possibility of
imperfectly maintained roads (either new or existing) is unclear, and it does not appear to
consider Tongass road construction and reconstruction costs as a factor.
Overall Impacts of the Proposed Rule
The FS predicts the proposed rule would have a “moderate adverse” effect on overal protection
of roadless area characteristics in the Tongass.78 The FS anticipates the proposed rule would have
a minimal to moderate beneficial impact on some local and regional economic activities (e.g., the
forest products industry and development of leasable minerals, state transportation projects, and
renewable energy projects), no impact on others (e.g., the fisheries industry and development of
locatable minerals), and a minimal adverse effect on the visitor industry.79 The FS predicts effects
on ecosystems and wildlife general y would be similar to predicted effects under current
management, with minimal increases in road density and young-growth timber harvesting in
special habitats.80
The FS’s predicted impacts to these and other resources are sensitive to the agency’s expectations
regarding timber harvesting and roads, which depend on a number of assumptions (see “Timber
Harvesting”
and “Road Construction and Reconstruction”). For example, although the FS
specifies that roads pose the “greatest risk” to fish resources in the Tongass through increased
sedimentation and other impacts, the agency also notes that overal effects are expected to be
minimal because timber harvesting is not predicted to increase.81 If timber harvesting increased,
fish resources might face greater impacts. In other cases, impacts are not assessed at a
programmatic or cumulative level and the FS specifies that impacts would be assessed for
applicable projects on a case-by-case basis. For example, the FS specifies that analyses of habitat
fragmentation and connectivity, impacts to water quality and quantity, and impacts to soils would
be assessed for individual projects.82 Therefore, the expected overal impact to these Tongass
lands and resources under the proposed rule is unclear.
Some stakeholders have raised concerns regarding overal impacts to the Tongass from the
proposed rule on a variety of economic, ecological, and cultural resources and uses (see “The
Tongass National Forest in Context”
). For example, some have expressed concern that the rule
may disproportionately affect the seafood and tourism industries (e.g., through impacts to salmon
spawning habitat or scenic views).83 Others have expressed concern that increased timber

76 FS, Responses to Questions for the Record Submitted by Rep. Mike Quigley Following U.S. Congress, House
Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, Exam ining the
Spending Priorities and Missions of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Managem ent
, 116th Cong., 2nd
sess., April 10, 2019.
77 DEIS 2019, p. 3-148.
78 DEIS 2019, p. 2-25 (T able 2-11).
79 DEIS 2019, p. 2-25 (T able 2-11).
80 DEIS 2019, p. 2-25 (T able 2-11). “Special habitats” include beach and estuary fringes, riparian management areas,
and old-growth mosaic habitats.
81 DEIS 2019, p. 3-112.
82 DEIS 2019, p. 1-8.
83 For example, see Adelyn Baxter, “T ourism Advocates Say Proposed Roadless Rule Exemption T hreatens Industry’s
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harvesting due to the rule may affect endangered species habitat, carbon sequestration, or other
ecological resources.84 It is difficult to assess these and other concerns in the context of the FS’s
analysis. Such concerns do not always directly respond to the FS’s projected impacts from the
rule, making direct comparisons difficult.85 Furthermore, the FS’s projected impacts depend on
specific future timber harvesting levels (and their association with roads), which are not
guaranteed to occur.
Potential Impacts to the Chugach from the Proposed Rule
In contrast to its effect on the Tongass, the proposed rule would not remove the applicability of
the 2001 Rule to the Chugach National Forest. Chugach IRAs would remain designated, and the
2001 Rule’s provisions related to IRAs would remain in place. The proposed rule would establish
an administrative process al owing the Alaska Regional Forester to issue boundary corrections
and modifications for IRAs designated by the 2001 Rule on the Chugach National Forest.86
Specifical y, after a 30-day comment period, the Alaska Regional Forester would be able to
change the boundaries of IRAs in the Chugach to rectify errors (e.g., clerical and typographical
errors); to reflect improvements in mapping technology; or to incorporate changes in IRA acres
since 2001, such as excluding areas that have since been designated as wilderness (boundary
corrections
). After a 45-day comment period, the proposed rule would al ow the Alaska Regional
Forester to change the boundaries or classifications of an IRA (boundary modifications). The term
“classification” is not defined in the proposed rule.
The FS specifies that this provision is administrative in nature and does not have any
environmental effects.87 However, this provision would al ow the Alaska Regional Forester to
change the boundary of an IRA following a public comment period. A decision by the Alaska
Regional Forester to change the boundary of an IRA would remove the 2001 Rule’s prohibitions
on timber harvesting, road construction, or road reconstruction in any area excluded by the new
IRA boundary. The FS did not assess the likelihood of such changes being made or the impacts of
such changes. Some have characterized the proposed rule as broad and open-ended, potential y
al owing for large changes to the Chugach.88 Others assert that the proposed rule may al ow
logging in more cost-effective areas of the Chugach, thereby bolstering the local economy.89

Growth,” Alaska Public Media KT OO-Juneau, October 17, 2019, and Laine Welch, “Some Southeast Alaska
Fishermen Speak Out Against Push to Exempt T ongass from Roadless Rule,” Anchorage Daily News, November 6,
2019.
84 For example, see Patrick Lavin, “ Protecting Wildlife in America’s Rainforest,” Defenders of Wildlife (blog), October
4, 2018, and Bobby Magill, “‘Hail Mary Pass’ in Alaska’s T ongass Forest Sets Up Carbon Clash,” Bloomberg Law,
December 9, 2019.
85 CRS identified one source that responded to the FS’s analysis directly, which asserted that the FS’s analysis of
carbon impacts due to timber harvesting was deficient. Dominick DellaSala, Analysis of Carbon Storage in Roadless
Areas of the Tongass National Forest
, Geos Institute, 2019, at http://forestlegacies.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/
tongass_carbon_2019_12_16.pdf.
86 Proposed Rule 2019, at p. 55528 (proposed codification at 36 C.F.R. §294.51).
87 DEIS 2019, p. 1-12.
88 Benjamin Hulac, “Road Proposal for T ongass Includes Another Alaska Forest,” Roll Call, December 16, 2019,
hereinafter cited as Hulac, “Road Proposal for T ongass.”
89 Hulac, “Road Proposal for T ongass.”
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Issues for Congress
Debates surrounding the proposed Alaska Roadless Rule have generated interest on a national
scale.90 These debates often center on the impacts to communities and resources, either due to the
proposed rule itself or due to potential differences between the proposed rule and the 2001 Rule.
Certain issues also may relate to the FS’s rulemaking process itself.
Impacts to Lands, Resources, and Communities: Stakeholder Views
Stakeholders may support the following courses of action:
 maintaining the 2001 Rule’s current provisions and applicability;
 maintaining the general framework of the 2001 Rule but altering its provisions or
applicability; or
 removing the 2001 Rule’s applicability to Alaska altogether and either replacing
the rule or returning roadless area management of Alaska’s national forests to
regional decisionmaking.
In general, these debates have focused on impacts to the Tongass, although some have expressed
interest about the potential rule’s impacts to the Chugach.91
Proponents of the 2001 Rule often seek to maintain its current provisions, though some may
advocate for broadening its prohibitions or applicability. Proponents often seek to maintain or
enhance resource protections.92 Some groups may assert that the 2001 Rule assists in protecting
resource conditions that support economical y significant sectors.93 Some also may contend that
lifting the 2001 Rule would not significantly help the Alaska timber industry.94 Some groups may
assert that timber harvesting in the Tongass is an inefficient use of federal resources.95
Opponents of the 2001 Rule may seek to make less stringent the rule’s current provisions or, as
the State of Alaska proposed, to remove them altogether, particularly in the Tongass. Those
favoring this position often seek to open IRAs to various resource uses—in particular, to open
Tongass IRAs to timber harvesting. Such groups may contend that the 2001 Rule negatively
affects rural economic prosperity, with particularly sustained and detrimental impacts to the

90 See, for example, Coral Davenport, “Forest Service Backs an End to Limits on Roads in Alaska’s T ongass Forest,”
New York Tim es, October 15, 2019, or James Freeman, “ T rump Says Goodbye to More Red T ape,” Wall Street
Journal
, August 27, 2019.
91 For example, see Jenny Weis, “ T he Chugach National Forest Caught Up in Roadless Mess,” Trout Unlimited,
October 20, 2019.
92 For example, see Ken Rait, Tongass National Forest Plan Threatens Wildlife, Economy, and More, Pew Charitable
T rusts, December 10, 2019.
93 For example, see Laine Welch, “Some Southeast Alaska Fishermen Speak Out Against Push to Exempt T ongass
from Roadless Rule,” Anchorage Daily News, November 6, 2019, and Adelyn Baxter, “T ourism Advocates Say
Proposed Roadless Rule Exemption T hreatens Industry’s Growth,” Alaska Public Media KT 00—Juneau, October 19,
2019.
94 For example, see U.S. Congress, House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, Roads to Ruin: Exam ining the Im pacts of Rem oving National Forest Roadless Protections, T estimony
of James Furnish, 116th Cong., 2nd sess., November 13, 2019 (also described in Liz Ruskin, “ How Would Lifting the
Roadless Rule Change T ongass Logging? Not Much, Both Sides Say,” Alaska Public Media, November 14, 2019).
95 For example, see T axpayers for Common Sense, Pain in the Tongass—The Sequel, November 15, 2019.
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Alaska timber industry.96 Some also may contend that the 2001 Rule is not needed to confer
additional resource protection.97
Concerns Regarding the Forest Service’s Rulemaking Process
The FS has provided grant funding to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of
Forestry (Alaska DOF) to support its role as a cooperating agency in the rulemaking process. The
FS also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Alaska Forest Association (AFA),
a trade group, to provide industry perspective on the economic viability of timber harvesting in
the Tongass.98 As of September 2019, the Alaska DOF had awarded $200,000 of FS grant funding
to the AFA for use in support of the rulemaking process.99 At that time, the FS and the Alaska
DOF had not awarded funding to some other cooperating agencies, such as tribal governments.100
It is also unclear if the awarded funding could properly be used for rulemaking activities.101 Some
have al eged that awarding this funding to the State of Alaska, which requested the rulemaking, or
to the AFA represents a conflict of interest, though others have stated that the uses of grant funds
were appropriate.102 In November 2019, the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture
Committee and the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee requested that the

96 For example, see testimony of Kyle Moselle, Associate Director, Office of Project Management and Permitting,
Alaska Department of Natural Resources, in U.S. Congress, House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on
Oversight and Investigations, Roads to Ruin: Exam ining the Im pacts of Rem oving National Forest Roadless
Protections
, 116th Cong., 2nd sess., November 13, 2019.
97 For example, Senator Lisa Murkowski, “Why I Support T rump’s Proposal to Lift Restrictions in the T ongass,”
Washington Post, September 25, 2019.
98 Memorandum of Understanding Between United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, and Alaska
Forest Association
, FS Agreement No. 17-MU-11100500-012, March 2017.
99 T he Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Forestry, entered into two cooperative agreements
with the Alaska Forest Association (AFA) related to the rulemaking, both titled Cooperative Agreem ent Between
Division of Forestry, DNR, State of Alaska Departm ent of Natural Resources and Alaska Forest Association
and dated
March 19, 2019, available accompanying Elizabeth Jenkins, “Faced with an Important Decision on the T ongass, Why
Is the Federal Government Supporting Alaska’s T imber Industry?,” Alaska Public Media KT 00-Juneau, September 24,
2019, hereinafter cited as Jenkins, “Important Decision on the T ongass.” T he agreements were for two purposes: (1) to
provide estimates of roadless acreage, timber volume in roadless areas, and economically viable timber in roadless
areas in support of the rulemaking and (2) to provide work plans for work developed under the FS-AFA memorandum
of understanding. Both cooperative agreements were supported by FS funding.
100 In 2018, the FS modified an existing FS grant to the Alaska DNR to grant the Alaska DNR an additional $2.0
million in funding. T he purpose of the grant funds was to support the proposed FS rulemaking for IRAs in Alaska. T he
source of the funds for the modified grant is unclear, but some funds may be from the FS State Fire Assistance grant
program, which provides financial and technical assistance, training, and equipment to state foresters to promote fire
protection on nonfederal lands. Because the source of the funding in the modified grant agreement is unclear, it is also
unclear whether the award was properly made or the awarded funds were properly used. FS Modi fication of Grant or
Agreement, FS Grant or Agreement No. 18 -DG-11100106, Modification No. 02, October 22, 2018. Additional
discussion and a copy of the grant modification is available at Elizabeth Jenkins, “ Records Show Federal Government,
T asked with Rewriting T ongass Rules, Also Funded Alaska T imber Group,” Alaska Public Media KT 00-Juneau,
September 24, 2019.
101 Jenkins, “Important Decision on the T ongass”; Elwood Brehmer, “ Invoices Reveal How Federal Grant Was Used on
‘Roadless Rule’ Work in Alaska’s T ongass National Forest,” Anchorage Daily News, January 24, 2020.
102 For example, see Earthjustice, “Forest Service Paying T imber Industry to Pick Which T rees It Wants in Alaska’s
T ongass National Forest,” January 27, 2020, and State of Alaska DNR, “DNR Commissioner Says USFS Roadless
Grant Used Properly,” press release, November 20, 2019.
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USDA investigate the award and subsequent uses of the grant.103 In response to the request, the
USDA Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation, which is ongoing.104
Options for Congress
Congress has already engaged in the FS Alaska roadless rulemaking process through various
means, such as hearings, correspondence with the USDA, and others.105 If desired, options for
congressional action regarding roadless areas in Alaska are broad and varied, depending on what
aspect of Alaska roadless area management Congress wishes to address. Some of these options
are detailed below.
Alternatively, Congress may decide that action related to the newly issued rule is not desirable at
this time. For example, Congress may elect to observe FS implementation of the rule and its
effect on related lands and resources. Should the rule be chal enged in court, Congress also may
wish to see how such chal enges are resolved.
Oversight
Congress might broadly use its oversight powers to review FS activities, such as the FS’s
rulemaking process and/or its administration of roadless areas. Such approaches might include
directing the FS to inventory or report on current roadless area conditions, the 2001 Rule’s impact
to specified resources or economic sectors, the FS’s planned implementation of provisions of the
2001 Rule (if such planning exists), or other aspects of roadless area management. Similarly,
Congress may wish to continue oversight activities related to the FS rulemaking process, such as
overseeing the FS’s cooperation with the State of Alaska or other groups.
Respond to Newly Issued Forest Service Roadless Regulations
In the case of newly issued regulations, Congress can review the rule within a specified time
frame and may revoke the rule, if desired.106

103 Letter from the Honorable Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition
and Forestry, and the Honorable Raul Grijalva, Charman, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural
Resources, to Phillis K. Fong, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Agriculture, November 18, 2018.
104 Letter from Phillis K. Fong, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Agriculture, to the Honorable Debbie Staben ow,
Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and the Honorable Raul Grijalva,
Charman, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, February 19, 2020.
105 See, for example, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, Roads to Ruin: Exam ining the Im pacts of Rem oving National Forest Roadless Protections, T estimony
of James Furnish, 116th Cong., 2nd sess., November 13, 2019, and Letter from the Honorable Debbie Stabenow,
Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and the Honorable Raul Grijalva,
Charman, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, to Phillis K. Fong, Inspector General, U.S.
Department of Agriculture, November 18, 2018.
106 Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. 801, 804(2). For more information on the Congressional Review Act, see CRS
In Focus IF10023, The Congressional Review Act (CRA), by Maeve P. Carey and Christopher M. Davis.
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Legislative Action
Congress could consider legislation to address Alaska roadless area management, taking a variety
of approaches:
Legislation That Refers to the FS’s Roadless Rules. For example, such
legislation could codify a rule into law, codify a rule and amend its provisions, or
exempt certain parts of the NFS from a rule.107 Such actions could supersede or
complement the FS’s proposed rule.
Legislation That Specifies Roadless Area Management Provisions. For
example, Congress could specify a manner and/or degree of state participation or
direction regarding Alaska roadless area management and designation, specify
prohibited or permitted management actions in Alaska IRAs, or take other
actions.108
Legislation That Congressionally Designates IRAs. For example, Congress
could designate Alaska IRAs under other federal land designations, such as
national monuments or wilderness.109 Alternately, Congress could designate
Alaska IRAs for multiple-use management. Such designations would supersede
FS rulemaking.
Legislation That Addresses Other Issues. Such issues could include funding for
activities in Alaska IRAs, for example.




Author Information

Anne A. Riddle

Analyst in Natural Resources Policy


107 For example, see S. 1311, Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2019, and H.R. 2491, Roadless Area Conservation
Act of 2019, which would codify certain FS roadless regulations into law; H.Amdt. 598 to H.R. 2 from the 115th
Congress, which would have exempted a state from FS roadless regulations; or S. 193 from the 114th Congress, which
would have exempted certain areas from FS roadless regulations.
108 For example, see H.R. 7090, Act to Save America’s Forests, from the 110th Congress.
109 According to FS, Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, 2016, Congress had designated
approximately 7.2 million acres of the T ongass under various federal land designations by 2016. T hese designations
include wilderness, national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, and designations established under P.L. 101-626 §201
and P.L. 113-291 §3002. T he provisions of each statutory designation differ from the provisions of the 2001 Rule. T he
acres of these designations may overlap (e.g., Congress may designate a wild and scenic river within a national
monument); it is unclear to what degree these designations may overlap with IRAs. Congress may have since
designated additional T ongass lands. For a description of federal land designations, see CRS Report R45340, Federal
Land Designations: A Brief Guide
, coordinated by Laura B. Comay. Pursuant to these and any other applicable
statutory authorities or requirements, the T ongass land and resource management plan specifies desired resource
conditions for units of the T ongass and informs decisions on how those uses will be balanced.
Congressional Research Service
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The Proposed Alaska Roadless Rule



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Congressional Research Service
R46505 · VERSION 1 · NEW
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