Proposed Settlement Would Allow Some Energy, Mining Projects to Move Forward

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Alaska’s U.S. Senators say a proposed settlement allowing some energy and mining projects to go forward in the Tongass does little to safeguard Southeast Alaska’s economy.

Conservation groups and the U.S. Forest Service yesterday filed a judgment in Federal District Court with a list of 12 mining, hydro-electric projects and power-line interties they believe should be exempt from the national forest Roadless Rule.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich say the proposal doesn’t address the region’s struggling timber industry and protects only a few hydro projects, while dozens more are under consideration by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Until March, the Tongass National Forest was considered an exception to the Roadless Rule.  That’s when a federal district court sided with plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the Village of Kake and conservation groups, and overturned the policy.

Southeast Alaska Conservation Council attorney Buck Lindekugel was part of the settlement.  He says the projects selected meet the criteria of being safe for salmon.

Forest Service Regional Forester Beth Pendleton says the proposed judgment should reassure Southeast communities that projects important to their economy can continue.  Pendleton says the judgment also would allow the Forest Service to offer small scale sales of salvage timber near existing roadways in areas designated as roadless.

Federal District Court Judge John Sedwick must still approve the proposal.

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