The Biden administration plans to roll back another Trump-era environmental protection rule, reinstating federal protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
The administration wrote in a notice Friday that it will “repeal or replace” a rule change implemented at the end of the Trump administration, which opened approximately 9 million acres to road construction, logging and other development.
"The Trump administration's decision on the Alaska roadless rule was controversial and did not align with the overwhelming majority of public opinion across the country and among Alaskans," a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture told Reuters.
Tongass, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest, was protected by a Clinton-era policy called the “roadless rule,” which prohibited road construction and timber harvesting on 58.5 million acres of National Forest System lands, according to the USDA.
According to the New York Times, Alaska lawmakers, including GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, have urged for protections on the forest to be lifted to provide an economic boost to the state.
But advocates have argued that it is essential to protect the forest for a number of reasons, the Washington Post reports, including boosting tourism and recreation, as well as climate and environmental concerns.
The forest is a huge national carbon dioxide sink — its trees absorb at least 8% of all the carbon stored in all the forests in the mainland U.S. combined, according to the Post.
Tongass, the nation's largest national forest, sitting on about 17 million acres, is colloquially referred to as the "crown jewel" of U.S. forests.
The move is the latest item in President Joe Biden’s environmental agenda, which is aimed at combatting the devastating effects of climate change. On Wednesday, the administration took action to repeal a Trump-era rule which ended federal protections for hundreds of thousands of small streams, which left them more vulnerable for pollution.
The new proposed rule is expected in the coming months.