The City of Wrangell has weighed in on a possible Alaska exemption to the Roadless Rule. In a six to one vote, the assembly supported a full repeal of the federal law for the Tongass National Forest.
Assembly member Julie Decker believes worthwhile projects won’t happen without scaling back regulations. And she’s not talking about logging, an industry that employed hundreds of local residents in past decades.
“We may need new water sources for drinking water eventually. We may need new water sources for hydropower,” Deckers say. “We may need to develop things like geothermal, transportation, restoration, salmon enhancement.”
With six alternatives on the table, critics call a full repeal extreme. But Decker and others on the assembly point to environmental safeguards already in place. Land use designations, or LUDS, within the Tongass Forest Plan would remain. These LUDs specify what kind of activities are allowed in certain areas of the forest. While many areas allow varying degrees of development, others are given strict wilderness protections.
Assembly member Mya Delong was the only opposing vote. She listed twelve communities and tribal governments in Southeast who have come out in support of the Roadless Rule, including the local tribe, Wrangell Cooperative Association.
“We are going against what all these communities are saying and our own WCA that we are working with to push forward to get economic development underway,” Delong says.
Still, another assembly member questioned if Wrangell’s voice even matters. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has already selected a full repeal as his preferred alternative.
The comment period is still open until December 17th.