Energy & Environment

Biden to ‘repeal or replace’ Trump decision removing protections for Tongass forest 

The Biden administration has indicated that it will “repeal or replace” a Trump administration decision to expand logging in the nation’s largest old-growth forest.

The government’s regulatory agenda indicates that the move follows an Agriculture Department review of a rule from last year that removed protections for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. 

The Trump rule in question created an exemption from a Clinton-era prohibition on road construction and timber harvesting on many Forest Service lands that is known as the “roadless rule.”

The change was expected to impact nearly 9.4 million acres of roadless land in the Tongass. 

The Tongass National Forest is a major carbon sink, meaning its trees soak up carbon from the atmosphere, lessening the impacts of climate change. The Forest Service found in 2016 that it stores more carbon than any other forest in the country.

Critics of the Trump rule have warned that opening the Tongass up to logging will lessen its ability to do so. 

But the Trump administration argued that its decision would increase rural economic opportunity and decrease federal regulation. It also argued that it would only cause a “modest difference” in environmental impacts. 

It said that while the 9.4 million acres wouldn’t be subject to the 2001 rule, just 186,000 more would become available for timber production. 

The Trump move had followed calls from officials in Alaska to remove protections.

Protections for Tongass and other national forests has long been a largely partisan fight that has sparked several legal battles.

The Bush administration in 2003 temporarily exempted the Tongass from the Clinton-era rule. 


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