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By SAM STOCKBRIDGE
Daily News Staff Writer
More than 80 people attended Tuesday night’s informational public meeting with U.S. Forest Service representatives, who presented on the Alaska Roadless Rulemaking process and answered audience questions about the process.
The presentation at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center in Ketchikan explained the background of the proposed Alaska Roadless Rule and summarized the conclusions of the 585-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposal released in October.
The 2001 national Roadless Rule set the current restrictions on development within inventoried roadless areas within federal public land, including within the Tongass National Forest.
Depending on which of six alternative proposals is selected by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture — who oversees the Forest Service — those restrictions could remain unchanged — or they could be removed entirely.
National Forest System Deputy Chief Chris French gave the presentation, which lasted roughly 40 minutes.
Joining French to answer questions about the Alaska Roadless Rulemaking process was Chad Van Ormer, the director of ecosystems planning and budgeting for the Forest Service Alaska Region.
Alternative 1 would leave in place all the restrictions in the 2001 Roadless Rule in the Tongass.
Alternative 6, for which Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and President Donald Trump have advocated and is the preferred alternative in the Draft EIS, would remove all development restrictions from inventoried roadless areas in the Tongass.
The other alternatives would have fewer restrictions than Alternative 1 but more restrictions than Alternative 6.
But even Alternative 5, the next-least restrictive alternative, would retain some form of development restriction on more than 75% of Tongass land protected by the 2001 Roadless Rule.
Following the presentation, audience members asked questions about the rulemaking process.
Most felt the Forest Service was ignoring desires and concerns of Southeast Alaska residents.
French explained that hearing the concerns and comments of community members was “very important” to the Forest Service, adding that the agency will carefully consider what it hears from citizens.
But “the views on public land management continue to be diverse and polarized,” he said.
French explained that Alternative 6 was closest to the exemption Alaska’s politicians requested.
Further coverage of Tuesday’s meeting will be published in later editions of the Daily News.