Alaska’s Democratic senator re-introduced legislation to repeal the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, saying the “cookie cutter” federal regulations take away local control and drive up unemployment.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), would only apply to National Forest System land in the state of Alaska, though.

“It’s past time to eliminate this cookie cutter federal regulation that is stifling the Southeast Alaska economy,” said Begich. “Southeast communities and small businesses need options to strengthen the region’s economy through responsible resource development like potential mining projects on Prince of Wales Island as well as economic timber sales.”

The rule prohibits new roads and most timber harvest in inventoried roadless areas of Alaska’s two national forests, the Tongass and the Chugach.

The senators are lobbying for greater flexibility to create a timber sale program that keeps the few existing mills alive and allows for expansion into second growth markets.

“Unemployment in the rural portions of Southeast Alaska currently averages more than 15 percent,” said Begich. “Energy costs in those communities without hydropower are too high as well. Instead of adding options, the roadless rule takes them away. The residents of Southeast Alaska don’t need more rules from Washington. They need more jobs and economic diversification.”

Last October, the roadless rule was upheld by the Supreme Court. The challenge was brought by Wyoming.

That charged the government was overstepping its bounds by essentially creating “wildness” with its restrictions on road building and timber harvesting on 45 million acres of undeveloped public lands.