Green extremists are gnashing their teeth over the U.S. Forest Service decision to allow logging on a relatively small part of the Tongass National Forest.
But most people in Southeast Alaska are applauding because the decision will open up 300,000 acres of the 17 million-acre forest and provide feedstock for the vestigial logging industry surviving after a long, ongoing political assault by the greens.
The Forest Service decision exempted the Tongass from the ''roadless rule'' issued during the Clinton administration which banned new roads in roadless areas of national forests. The roads ban is a key portion of the green political strategy aimed at making national forests into de facto national parks.
The decision was rendered to settle the state of Alaska's suit arguing that the roadless rule violated the ''no more'' clause of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.
The logging industry now provides just 650 jobs in Southeast, a shadow of the 5,000 jobs supported 10 years ago. Its demise has been a major drag on the area's economy.
The Forest Service noted in its announcement that 32 communities within the Tongass depend on the forest for subsistence and their social and economic health, and that most of them lack road and utility connections. It said applying the roadless rule to the forest would cost a total of 900 jobs in the area.
The review process leading up to the decision included 600 public meetings all across the country and including 17 in Alaska. More than 1 million public comments were received, most supporting the ban on building roads. Fortunately the Forest Service decided that the state's lawsuit had genuine merit and Alaska would prevail, so the exemption to the roadless rule was granted.
Environmental leaders are outraged, claiming that the Forest Service should not ignore the comments of so many people. But those attending most such hearings are likely to be critics; the active constituency for additional limited cutting in the Tongass is in Alaska. Those opposed those who testified against it are largely members of the cult-like green groups that can mobilize their followers with incendiary e-mail.
Those followers are fed a constant stream of marginal fiction about places such as the Tongass and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So when testifiers are needed to support the extremist positions, they can be turned out with the touch of a computer ''send'' button.
The reality of green mobilization is what terrifies so many members of Congress and gives the greens tremendous political power far out of proportion to their true numbers in the nation.
The Tongass decision is a rare and welcome victory for Alaska in its decades-long battle with environmentalist extremism.
The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times - Jan. 2
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