For Immediate Release
Senator Cantwell Introduces a Bill to Protect Our Nation’s Roadless Areas in Federal Forests
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced a bill today to protect roadless areas in our nation’s national forests.
In January the State of Alaska requested that Secretary of Agriculture Perdue initiate a rulemaking process to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (the Roadless Rule) -- it is expected that the Forest Service and State of Alaska will announce and initiate that rulemaking process imminently.
Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark, issued this statement:
“This legislation is about preserving the relatively few remaining national forest lands not already fragmented by roads and logging activity. Protecting these undeveloped wildlands from the devastating effects of logging and roads safeguards habitat for thousands of wildlife species. It also provides clean water and unparalleled recreational opportunities for Americans, while still allowing other types of development to proceed as part of responsible forest management.
"In light of the myriad of legislative threats we have seen in this Congress to the Forest Service’s landmark 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, and given the Trump administration and State of Alaska’s collusive efforts to roll back the conservation rule administratively, it is timely for Congress to act to solidify it.
“Thank you to Senator Maria Cantwell for her tireless work to protect our nation’s forests from unsustainable development, logging and other threats.”
The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule:
Protecting nearly 60 million acres of unroaded areas within the National Forest System, the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule is one of America’s most important conservation laws.
The Rule prohibits road construction and commercial logging within protected roadless areas with exceptions that honor existing laws and recognize socio-economic concerns.
Roadless areas protected under the Rule provide for unparalleled recreation opportunities, clean drinking water for millions of Americans, and crucial habitat for at-risk fish and wildlife populations.
There are roughly 375,000 miles of roads within the National Forest System – enough to circle the Earth 15 times – along with a multi-billion-dollar road maintenance backlog.
The Rule has been under consistent legislative attack during the 115th Congress, as some politicians have repeatedly tried to insert riders to undo or roll back the Rule into several pieces of unrelated, must-pass legislation.
The Tongass National Forest – America’s Rainforest
The Tongass National Forest encompasses almost 17 million acres of wild forest in southeast Alaska; roughly 9.5 million acres is classified as roadless under the Rule. The state of Alaska has petitioned the Forest Service to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule. Absent congressional protection of roadless areas, other states could also try to undermine the Roadless Rule with help from a compliant administration.
The Tongass National Forest contains the largest intact temperate rainforest on the continent.
Old-growth trees only constitute 4 percent of the forest and about half of that prime habitat has already been lost to destructive clearcutting.
The Tongass is home to five species of salmon, brown and black bears, bald eagles, wolves, mountain goats and Sitka black-tailed deer. Migratory birds that come from all over the continent spend the summer nesting and breeding in the Tongass. Off the coast, there are orca and humpback whales, Stellar sea lions, seals and Northern sea otters.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.