Groups decry proposal to roll back Alaska forest protections

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to exempt the country’s largest national forest from a ban on timber harvests and road building in roadless areas, a move conservation groups denounced Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, under which the Forest Service falls, announced Thursday the upcoming release of a final environmental review identifying a preferred alternative to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the so-called Roadless Rule. Once the review is released, at least 30 days must pass before a final decision is made.

The Tongass, which covers more than 25,000 square miles (64,750 square kilometers) in southeast Alaska, is one of the largest, relatively intact temperate rain forests in the world, and a majority of the Tongass is in a natural condition, “unlike most other national forests,” the Forest Service has said.

The state in 2018, under then-Gov. Bill Walker, asked the federal government to consider the exemption and

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