Residents gathered in the Pelican school to give testimony. The US Forest Service participated remotely from Juneau. (Courtesy/Bauscher)

The public comment period for the proposal to exempt Alaska from the Roadless Rule ends today [Tuesday 12-17]. The US Forest Service has been collecting written comments as well as oral testimony at meetings throughout the region. 

The agency held its final meeting in Pelican on December 12th. Fifteen people testified, all in favor of Alternative 1 — the so called “No Action Alternative” that would leave roadless protections in place.

Mayor Walt Weller testified that he hadn’t heard a satisfactory account of the potential impacts on subsistence species.  

“Another thing I have not heard is what realistic science has determined that there will be no long-rang negative effects to food security, caused by damage to salmon habitat and interference with wildlife populations necessary for subsistence,” Weller said.  

The emphasis on food security comes as Pelican remains cut-off from ferry service. That, combined with rough weather making seaplane travel unreliable, has left the only store in town low on essential items. 

Heather Bauscher, of the Sitka Conservation Society, was in Pelican for the meeting, and said the the store was out of pretty much everything besides liquor and ramen noodles. 

Residents ended up sharing food potluck-style at the meeting, which ran for about four hours.

The Pelican city council also recently passed a resolution supporting Alternative 1. 

The 60-day comment period closes today [Tuesday 12-17]. From there, the Forest Service will review the comments and testimony and choose one of the six alternatives.