Federal public lands belong equally to all Americans. Will we see democracy in action on the Tongass National Forest regarding the Roadless Rule? I’m positive that we can expect some of the typical USFS and timber industry apologists to chime in here and defend whatever the USFS will end up doing. I do wonder, however, if anyone can share an example of where the USFS got 96% letters and comments in favor of a timber sale, or a coal lease, or an oil and gas lease, but then decided to side with the 1% of commenters who were opposed to the resource extraction? I know, I know…”It’s not a vote.” (Except for all the times the “vote” favors what the USFS was going to do anyway, then they will just be following the “will of the people.”).
According to the Daily Sitka Sentinel:
After months of hearings, analyses, and meetings, the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday released an official summary of public comments in the rulemaking process that would exempt the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule.
All told, 96% of the 267,000 letters and comments received were in favor of keeping the Roadless Rule in place in the Tongass, and one percent supported exempting it from the rule, the summary report said.
Comments were accepted from around the nation. For reference, the population of Southeast Alaska as of the 2010 census was just short of 70,000.
“This is now a litmus test to the state of our democracy,” Sitka Conservation Society Director Andrew Thoms said in an interview today.
“We will see if the government makes decisions guided by the people or if we have descended to the level of corruption that would be a tragedy for what Americans expect from their country and their government,” he said.
The Roadless Rule, in place since 2001, prohibits road building activities in 9.4 million acres of the 16.9 million-acre Tongass National Forest. Project exemptions are possible under the rule.