Unfortunately, it has become clear that our roadless areas are going to be attacked on a national and local scale. In response to mounting threats to the 2001 Roadles Rule and our Roadless Areas here in Washington State, Washington Wild coordinated a joint comment letter signed by 152 conservation, recreation and wildlife groups, faith leaders, hunting and fishing organizations, local businesses, and elected officials.
Between 1999 and 2001, the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule) was established as part of one of the largest rulemakings in the history of the federal government. In 2001 Washington Wild led statewide efforts to establish the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Nearly 350 conservation and recreation groups, elected officials, local businesses, and faith leaders formally supported the nearly two million acres of roadless forests in Washington State. The Forest Service held more than 600 public meetings nationwide, including 28 throughout Washington State. More than 1.6 million Americans submitted comments, including more than 80,000 comments from Washington State citizens during the draft rule comment period. More than 95% of comments submitted were in support of protecting roadless areas.
Here in Washington State we have just over 2 million acres of Roadless Areas. They are a critical part of the quality of life we have come to expect. Roadless forests provide much of our clean and safe drinking water, besides protecting fish and wildlife, and providing amazing back country recreation experiences. Washington’s wild forests are also a significant resource to our local economy. They inspire homegrown companies like REI, Eddie Bauer and the many other local businesses that provide recreation gear. Active outdoor recreation supports more than 200,000 jobs in Washington and contributes more than $26 billion dollars to our state’s economy.
The current administration has already taken the firsts steps to dismantle this key rule. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) has recently introduced a measure that would eliminate protections for roadless areas in Alaska and the state of Alaska has asked the Department of Agriculture for an exemption to the Roadless Rule. We are concerned that a next step will be a nationwide repeal of roadless protections as was attempted a decade ago. Here in Washington State, over the last year, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has already greenlighted or proposed two projects that allow new road building in IRAs, the Olivine Mine and Excelsior Mine Expansions. Continuing to allow roadbuilding in IRAs and allowing statewide exemptions sets a dangerous precedent for the future management of the Forest and in Roadless Areas. This puts backcountry recreation, healthy forests, clean water, and wildlife habitat at risk.
Write you Elected Officials Today and ask them to protect our Roadless Areas!