Biden Administration Repeals the 2020 Roadless Rule in the Tongass

Repealing the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule, which exempted the Tongass from roadless protections, will return the inventoried roadless areas of the forest to management under the 2001 Roadless Rule, which prohibits road construction, reconstruction, and timber harvest in inventoried roadless areas, with limited exceptions. USDA determined that the underlying goals and purposes of the 2001 Roadless Rule continue to be a critical part of conserving the many resources of the Tongass, especially when it comes to the values that roadless areas represent for local, rural communities, Alaska Native peoples, and the economy of Southeast Alaska.

WaPo coverage here:

“The Tongass Roadless Rule is important to everyone,” said Joel Jackson, president of the Organized Village of Kake, which sits on the forest edge on an island south of the capital, Juneau.

“The old-growth timber is a carbon sink, one of the best in the world,” Jackson said in a statement. “It’s important to OUR WAY OF LIFE — the streams, salmon, deer, and all the forest animals and plants.”

Tribal leaders and Native organizers made a huge push to get these protections back in place. According to the press release, the Administration received more than 112,000 comments during this rulemaking (that is a *lot* of comments), a majority of which were in support of this change.

Alaska v. Organized Village of Kake Cert Petition (Roadless Rule)


Alaska Cert Petition

Question presented:

The question presented is: whether the Ninth Circuit’s decision contravenes the basic administrative law principle, established by this Court’s decisions, that an executive agency may change the policies of a previous administration based on the new administration’s different values and priorities, even though the relevant facts are unchanged.

Lower court materials here and here.

Split Ninth Circuit Panel Affirms Federal Tongass Roadless Rule

Here is the opinion in Organized Village of Kake v. Dept. of Agriculture.

An excerpt:

The panel reversed the district court’s order, which invalidated a 2003 United States Department of Agriculture regulation temporarily exempting the Tongass National
Forest in Alaska from application of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

The panel held that in its 2003 Record of Decision, the Department of Agriculture articulated a number of legitimate grounds for temporarily exempting the Tongass Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule. The panel concluded that these grounds and the Department of Agriculture’s reasoning in reaching its decision were neither arbitrary nor capricious. The panel remanded to the district court to decide whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is required in the first instance.

Judge McKeown dissented, and would affirm the district court’s decision because the  administrative record does not support the USDA’s decision in 2003 to discard its previous position and temporarily exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule.


Alaska Opening Brief

Amicus Brief Supporting Appellant

Tribal and Environmental Brief

Alaska Reply

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