I’ve tried to put together this story from a variety of off-the-record sources. Unfortunately, I don’t have the connections to get the story corroborated by someone on the record. And I’ve spoken to some journalists who need corroboration to write the story. So I am telling this story with the intention that perhaps someone in the TSW community could verify or knows someone who might. You can always email me if you have this information.
Now, here is the story the way I heard it. It is similar to the WaPo story here from last summer with regard to the effect of Trump but I’d like to highlight the part (which the Post mentions) that the exemption decision was that of the President. (note the WaPo story says that the 2001 Rule “does not allow roads except when the Forest Service approves specific projects. It bars commercial logging.”
As the Alaska Roadless Rule was in development, the FS and State held meetings, analyzed public comment, and all that, and were ready to go with an “in the middle” Rule, as we have discussed previously here. I never heard which one, or whether it was a combination of different ones.
Secretary of Agriculture Perdue and the Forest Service supported this one, and the story goes it went so far as the Secretary told folks at the National Wildlife Federation that he was good to go with one in the middle. Their preferred rule was written and sent to OMB for clearance.
The way this story goes is that President Trump stopped over on an air trip and spoke with the Governor of Alaska, who convinced him to change the preferred to granting an exemption from the Rule (one of the alternatives in the DEIS). And so that is what is currently being cleared over at OMB.
Why I think this is important: if it is true, the FS and the Department negotiated in good faith, but were Trumped by a higher political authority. In a recent thread here, Jim Furnish mentioned that he thought FS leaders should speak out if they make changes themselves, or they come from higher up. My view is that it is not their role to tell us directly, but rather our own work as observers to read between the lines and figure it out, if it is that important. Which I think this one is.
At the end of the day, I think any State Roadless Rulemaking will get litigated (based on a sample size of two) and it’s frustrating for the Forest Service people to do things that make the Rule less defensible, as well as possibly blowing current and future collaborative efforts, and sowing much (unnecessary) bad feeling. That is why I’ve posted the story, even though it hasn’t been corroborated by anyone yet on the record. I would appreciate any info related to this.