Around 15 people showed up, despite the rain. (KCAW Photo/Snider)

Sitka residents staged a small demonstration outside the US Forest Service offices Friday afternoon (11-15-19) to raise awareness about proposed changes to the Roadless Rule, and to encourage public comment.

The Forest Service has proposed exempting Alaska from the 2001 Roadless Rule, which currently applies to more than half of the Tongass. Critics say the exemption could lead to increased old-growth logging, harming deer and salmon habitat.

Auriella Hughes was one of about 15 residents who turned out — despite intermittent downpours — to hold colorful, handmade signs, and to express their support for the “no action” alternative under the Rule.

“I would like to see the Roadless Rule maintained without any action,” Hughes said. “That’s what makes this beautiful place we live in so special, is that there is a lot of wilderness. I want to keep it that way. I want to protect it.”

Don Muller, left, and Larry Trani hold signs expressing support for the local Forest Service branch and for keeping Roadless protections on the Tongass. (KCAW Photo/Snider)

The gathering took place three days after Sitkans expressed overwhelming support for maintaining Roadless protections during a public meeting and subsistence hearing.

The demonstrators made clear that they have no beef with local Forest Service employees. Jim Clare, who helped organize the event, said he and others are frustrated by decisions being made in Washington, D.C.

“We want our local Forest Service people to know this is not about them. This is about what’s coming from somewhere up above,” he said.

Clare said there will be more events like this one leading up to the December 17th deadline for submitting public comments.