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Biden moves to reverse Trump opening of Alaska forest to logging

(Reuters) – The Biden administration on Friday began a process to reverse a Trump-era policy that opened vast swaths of the largest U.S. national forest, the Tongass in Alaska, to logging and mining.

The move is the latest effort to roll back a land use decision made under then-President Donald Trump, reflecting a growing emphasis on conservation over commercial development.

In a notice posted on a White House website, the administration said it would propose “to repeal or replace” the exemption of the Tongass from the 2001 Roadless Rule that was finalized late last year.

The Clinton-era rule banned logging, roads and mining in undeveloped forests. Alaska state officials had petitioned for the change because they said the rule has cost Alaskans jobs.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, said “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.”

On Twitter, Alaska’s Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy vowed to “use every tool available to push back” against the Democratic administration’s move.

“From tourism to timber, Alaska’s great Tongass National Forest holds much opportunity for Alaskans but the federal government wishes to see Alaskans suffer at the lack of jobs and prosperity,” Dunleavy tweeted.

Environmental groups cheered the decision and urged the administration to repeal the Trump policy entirely.

“A full reinstatement of roadless protections is a necessity and crucial to preserving America’s ‘Amazon’ and one of our most valuable assets in the climate fight,” Andy Moderow, Alaska director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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