JUNEAU (AP) A Forest Service roadless rule effectively locking up portions of the Tongass and Chugach national forests from major timber development is ''unlawful and unwise'' and should end, Gov. Frank Murkowski said.
Murkowski called on the Forest Service to exempt Alaska from the roadless rule in a letter to its Roadless Content Analysis Teams. It's the first time since taking office last December the administration has officially weighed in on the controversial roadless rule.
The Republican governor said the Clinton-era rule violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act.
Former Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles filed a federal lawsuit in 2001 challenging the Forest Service roadless rule. More recently, a federal judge in Idaho blocked the roadless ban, saying it needed to be amended.
One of President Bill Clinton's key environmental legacies and a bane to many development-hungry Alaskans the roadless rule would prevent logging, road construction and other activities on about 58.5 million acres of federal forests. More than 25 percent of the public acreage affected by the rule is in Alaska.
Murkowski argues the rule dictates the Forest Service manage most of the 16.9 million acres of the Tongass in Southeast Alaska as protected wilderness area.
And nearly all of the 5.6 million-acre Chugach National Forest near Prince William Sound would have to be considered wilderness area, Murkowski said.
This is illegal since designating an area as wilderness is a power reserved for Congress, Murkowski said. In addition, ANILCA reserved 150 million acres for conservation and set out that no more could be reserved without an act of Congress.
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