GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is trying to undo restrictions on logging in her state’s Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the U.S., The Washington Post reports.
In an appropriations bill to fund the Department of the Interior, Murkowski proposed rescinding an Obama-era plan to phase out certain types of logging in the Tongass. The move coincides with a broader GOP push to open up a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil development.
The U.S. Forest Service under former President Barack Obama designed a plan, implemented Jan. 8, that would phase out old growth logging while encouraging harvests in new growth areas of the forest, Anchorage Daily News reports.
The 17 million acre forest has been logged for decades. The forest’s old growth timber, found in tree stands that have not been logged before, is difficult to get, but plentiful and usually of better quality than lumber from “new growth” trees, according to WaPo.
“The Forest Service’s insistence on locking in an accelerated transition to a young growth program without an inventory to show whether that is even possible is both harmful and misguided,” Murkowski said of the USFS plan at the time. “And the timber industry is not the only one threatened by this plan – so, too, are energy development, mining and others.”
Murkowski’s proposal was written on page 169 of the 174-page appropriations bill, which critics said was an attempt to hide the move.
“Senator Murkowski is trying to sneak in anti-environmental policy riders into a massive budget bill intended to allow destructive logging of some of the tallest and oldest trees in our national forests,” League of Conservation Voters deputy legislative director Alex Taurel told WaPo in an email. “This activity and the pollution it causes would harm thriving and sustainable local economies such as fishing and tourism.”
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