Trump’s new Tongass rule doesn’t mean more logging

If the timber industry in Alaska is looking to harvest more trees, the Trump administration’s proposal to open roadless areas in Tongass National Forest to logging might not be the way to get there.

That’s the conclusion from the Forest Service, which said its plan to lift the Roadless Area Conservation Rule on all 9.2 million acres of roadless areas of the country’s biggest national forest won’t produce any more timber than leaving the restrictions in place.

The seemingly counterintuitive finding is spelled out in the draft environmental impact statement and proposed regulations the Forest Service released Oct. 15 and raises a question among conservation and environmental groups opposed to the change: Why push for a roadless exemption to open more areas to logging when more timber isn’t in the offing?

“Why do it? Why go through the upheaval?” asked Randi Spivak, public lands program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, which supports keeping the roadless-area restrictions.