More than 50 people turned out Tuesday night for a town hall meeting on the Roadless Rule organized by the Sitka Conservation Society.
The Trump Administration has proposed exempting Alaska from the 2001 rule designed to protect large swaths of public land from further development and resource extraction.
Critics of the proposal believe that a full exemption would lead to increased old-growth logging on the Tongass National Forest.
The town hall was designed to bring people up to speed on the current debate over the rule, answer questions about Forest Service land management practices, and demonstrate how to craft an effective public comment.
Everyone who spoke at the event was in favor of preserving the Roadless Rule in some form or another. Zach LaPerriere, a woodworker and small-scale logger, said he doesn’t support the current timber industry model of shipping unprocessed trees abroad.
“Having an interest in the timber industry, I’d like one to be here in 50 years or in 100 years,” LaPerriere said. “And exporting round logs to Asia is not a sustainable endeavor. It’s 1950s thinking.”
Others brought up concerns about the potential impact on salmon fisheries, if spawning streams are degraded due to more logging. Marsh Skeele, a fisherman-owner of Sitka Salmon Shares, says he sees economic reasons for keeping the Roadless Rule.
“To me, having the Roadless Rule in place keeps my business viable,” Skeele said. “It keeps me here economically. It keeps healthy salmon populations.”
The Forest Service will hold a number of public meetings and subsistence hearings on the proposed exemption in the coming weeks: they will be in Yakutat and Tenakee Springs on November 5th, Kake on November 8th, and Angoon and Sitka on November 12th.
The public comment period is open now through December 17th.