The Trump administration says it wants to lift the Bill Clinton-era "Roadless Rule" in a national forest bigger than West Virginia. The United States Forest Service said Tuesday that it would like to see an end to all restrictions on road building in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, a move that would open up large swathes of America's largest national forest to logging, the New York Times reports. The Forest Service said it had prepared a study looking at six possible changes to the rule, and the lifting of all restrictions in the 16.7 million-acre forest is the administration's "preferred option." The Forest Service proposal was made at the request of Alaskan lawmakers, who have long pushed for a full exemption from the 2001 rule for the Tongass.
"It's a forest, folks, not a national park," Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said at the Valley Republican Woman Chili Cookoff over the weekend, per the Anchorage Daily News. “The president understands that if we can do what we’re supposed to do and use that forest for developing our resources." Conservationists, however, slammed the proposal, which would affect at least 165,000 acres of pristine old-growth forest. They warn that it would damage wildlife habitats as well as the tourism industry. Tribal governments are also opposed. "You know it’s sad that we have to continue to fight our own government to protect our forests and streams," Joel Jackson, President of the Organized Village of Kake, tells Alaska's Energy Desk. (Read more Tongass National Forest stories.)