Biden to Restore Protections for Tongass National Forest in Alaska


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is expected to announce on Thursday that it will move forward with its plan to fully restore environmental protection to Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests stripped by former President Donald. J.Trump.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, whose agency includes the United States Forest Service, is expected to announce the news, according to a briefer on the matter who wanted to speak anonymously as it has yet to be made public.

Spokespersons for the White House, Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service did not respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday night.

The move comes a month after administration Published plans to “remove or change” a rule declared under Mr Trump for about nine million acres openor more than half the forest, log and road construction.

The Tongass in southeast Alaska is a vast wilderness that is home to more than 400 species of wildlife, fish and shellfish, including nesting bald eagles, deer and the world’s largest concentration of black bears. Tucked between its snowy peaks, fjords and flowing rivers are red and yellow cedars and Western hemlocks, as well as Sitka spruce trees that are at least 800 years old.

Alaska lawmakers had hoped the Biden administration would allow some development in parts of the forest. Among them is Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who played a key role in negotiating a bilateral $1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Biden deems crucial to furthering his economic agenda. It forced Mr. Biden to leave parts of the Tongass open for logging, drilling and other economic development, which he felt were crucial to his country.

Republicans and Democrats have been fighting for Tongass for 20 years. The forest was heavily logging in the 1960s and 1970s, but in 2001 President Bill Clinton enacted the “corrupt rule” that barred most of the forest from logging and road construction necessary for mining.

A few months before leaving office, Mr. Trump exempted the entire forest from “corrupt rule” and handed a victory to the Alaskan Republican leaders, who argued that the southeastern part of their state needed the economic boost that logging and other development would bring. But Mr. Biden has made it clear from the start of his presidency that he will unravel many of his predecessor’s environmental actions.

“Obviously my strong and strong preference for an exemption was that this corrupt rule shouldn’t be for all nine million acres,” Murkowski said in an interview last month.

The yo-yo aspect of the policy regarding Tongass makes it difficult for Alaskans, he said.

“It’s hard for these communities, it’s hard to plan,” he said. “There’s a local bank based out there, you know, if you get it, you’ll get it. How do you know where to go to invest when you have this long-standing uncertainty? We have to try and put a stop to it.”

The Biden administration is expected to announce $25 million in federal spending on local sustainable development in Alaska, according to the person briefed on the matter. .


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