Why was fire prevention funding used on the Roadless Rule process in Alaska? Congress members want to know.

Lena Loop trail near Juneau in the Tongass National Forest. (Creative Commons photo by Gillphoto)

A United States senator from Michigan and a representative from Arizona want an investigation into why federal dollars — typically used to prevent wildfires — were given to the State of Alaska to work on the Roadless Rule.

On Monday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Raúl Grijalva sent a request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General, asking for more transparency into how the federal grant was awarded and how the state is spending the money.

In September, records obtained by Alaska’s Energy Desk showed the USDA gave the Alaska Division of Forestry $2 million.

That money was used for the state to act as a cooperating agency in the rulemaking process regarding how the Roadless Rule should apply to the Tongass National Forest. But the state also paid a timber industry group more than $200,000 from those funds to provide additional input.

Other cooperating agencies, such as tribal governments, didn’t receive any money.

Currently, the Trump Administration is seeking a rollback of the Roadless Rule in the Tongass, which could increase access to logging.

Sen. Stabenow, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, is concerned about climate change and said in the letter that the Tongass is “essential to addressing the climate crisis.”