Roadless Rule Exemptions Still Unclear

An Assistant State Attorney General says it’s unclear if exemptions to the federal government’s Roadless Rule actually allow road building in protected areas.

In a recent decision striking down an exemption for the entire Tongass National Forest, federal district court Judge John Sedwick listed 17 projects that could move forward under other Roadless Rule provisions. But Assistant Attorney General Tom Lenhart says the decision didn’t specifically okay road projects.

The state on Friday appealed Sedwick’s May 24 ruling. It also filed suit against the rule as a whole in federal court in Washington, D.C., citing conflicting opinions on its legality issued by courts in the U.S. 9th Circuit.

The Roadless Rule is a conservation policy adopted by the U.S. Forest Service in the waning days of the Clinton Administration. It’s been the subject of numerous legal battles, but still remains in effect.

Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Executive Director Lindsey Ketchel says this latest appeal shows the Parnell Administration isn’t interested in sitting down at the table to hash out longstanding differences over management of the Tongass.

Also on Friday, Governor Sean Parnell and Attorney General John Burns ordered the Department of Law to appeal a decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ordering a new Environmental Impact Statement for the Juneau Access project. In May, the panel ruled two to one that the state and Federal Highway Administration didn’t sufficiently consider changes to the ferry system in its “no-build” option for the road project.

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Casey Kelly is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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