We’ve talked before about the history of the Roadless Rule in Alaska (should the Tongass have been included in the first place, litigation and so on). In my view (as a card-carrying State Roadless Rule veteran), the purpose of a State Rule is to take the nationwide 2001 Rule, which was a mark on a wall and fairly quickly constructed, and figure out improvements that fit the State. We have had 20 years of case law since 2001, and some of it is not really all that clear. How this works out in practice is that if someone wants to do a project, it depends on whether Environmental Groups with Lawyers like the project or not. It’s a bit like having an approval process for projects in your community by individuals often living far from the area affected, and perhaps not as familiar or sympathetic with the concerns of those living in the area. Perhaps they see it as an “iconic landscape” or a reservoir of carbon or biodiversity. It doesn’t feel fair because you can’t go into their communities and tell them what not to do to protect the environment.
There are many interesting concepts in the “middle alternatives” of the Alaska Roadless Rule that are worth discussing. Unfortunately, to me, the preferred alternative (I would bet not the FS’s call, after all, they did all this creative work) the exemption from 2001 was selected as the preferred. I still think it’s worth sharing all the ideas for common ground that the public and folks from the Forest Service and State came up with. Perhaps it’s not too late for whoever is deciding to change..it seems to me as if it would bolster the inevitable court case to select an alternative that incorporated the complex public comment on offer. This, to me, would be a case for not having a preferred in advance- selecting one (at least THAT one) possibly just further polarized people.
Here’s a link to a powerpoint from last fall from which I copied the slides below. I particularly like this idea of the “community use priority” as it takes into account community needs by requiring that projects need approval by community government (check out all the alternatives in the powerpoint, I only put a few below). You can click on them, as well as the “reimagining” slide above) to make them larger.