GAO: 2016 Tongass Plan Amendment is a Rule

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today welcomed the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) determination that the U.S. Forest Service’s 2016 Amendment to the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP Amendment) is a “rule” and therefore subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Murkowski asked GAO to determine whether the TLMP Amendment met the definition of a “rule” earlier this year, and GAO announced yesterday that it does. 

“I welcome GAO’s determination that the 2016 TLMP Amendment is a rule and subject to congressional review,” Murkowski said. “Every sector of the Southeast Alaska economy needs greater access to the Tongass, but this rule failed to provide it. Most concerning was the Forest Service’s decision to accelerate a transition to young-growth timber harvesting, even though it never completed an inventory to ensure it would be carried out successfully. While this rule can be improved administratively or legislatively, disapproving it entirely is now another option that we will consider in the days ahead.”

Spanning a total of 16.7 million acres, the Tongass covers most of Southeast Alaska and is the largest national forest in the United States. Despite its expansive size, the Forest Service has increasingly restricted access for timber, mining, transportation, renewable energy, and even recreation. Those restrictions increased when the Obama administration finalized the TLMP Amendment on its way out of office in December 2016, which was finalized without completing a comprehensive inventory of young growth, a key recommendation of the Tongass Advisory Committee, and largely dismissed more than 1,000 objections.

The Congressional Review Act became law in 1996. It helps maintain the balance of power between the branches of government by allowing Congress to pass a joint resolution of disapproval to overturn executive branch regulations.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Following GAO’s release of this determination, the CRA provides for 60 legislative days to file a resolution of disapproval that would nullify the 2016 TLMP Amendment.

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