Federal judge reinstates roadless rule in Tongass forest

May 25, 2011 

A federal judge has sided with the village of Kake and reinstated the Clinton-era roadless rule in southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest.

U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick in Anchorage issued his final decision late Tuesday, making a March ruling official. Sedwick found that a Bush administration decision in 2003 to exempt the Tongass from the roadless rule was arbitrary and capricious. The rule protects roadless areas in national forests from commercial logging and road building.

Sedwick's final judgment reinstates the roadless rule in the Tongass while making clear that certain projects and activities can proceed. Those projects include roads and timber removal for energy projects and selling dead or downed wood for firewood.

Sedwick didn't vacate three timber sales authorized under the exemption. He says that decision is left to the Department of Agriculture.

"The roadless rule strikes the right balance for our community and will help us move forward. It protects our traditional uses while allowing new access to inexpensive, reliable hydropower," Mike Jackson with the Organized Village of Kake, the tribal government for Kake, said in a prepared statement.

"The remaining intact forests around Kake are essential sources of food, medicine, clothing and traditional items for artistic and spiritual use," he said.

The rule will limit further loss of intact forest while allowing for construction of hydro projects he says it important for economic development.

A message left after business hours Wednesday with the Department of Justice was not immediately returned.

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