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In Washington state, we hold our wild lands and ancient forests in high regard. Roadless Rule protections help ensure these places remain wild. Read on to learn more about the importance of Roadless Forests.

What is the Roadless Rule?

Click to expand. The Roadless Rule protects nearly 60 million acres (one third) of national forest land in 39 states.

The 2001 National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or simply the Roadless Rule, is one of our nation’s bedrock conservation protections. It’s a popular and balanced policy that protects nearly 60 million acres of breathtaking, undeveloped national forests from road-building and other industrial activity.

From 1999 to 2001, the Forest Service held over 600 public meetings nationwide, including 28 throughout Washington State. In what was one of the most extensive public participation efforts in the history of federal rule-making, more than 1.6 million people commented during the rule-making process, with 95% supporting strong roadless area protection.

What are Examples of Roadless Areas?

A trail meanders towards a rocky mountain peak. Larches are visible.

Maple Pass Loop Trail (Sawtooth Roadless Area)​. Photo by Andy Porter.

Roadless areas are found across the country, including 2 million acres here in Washington state. Breathtaking places like South Quinault Ridge, much of the Kettle Range, Mt. Baker, and The Dark Divide are all Roadless Areas.

One of the most high-profile Roadless Areas is Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. At nearly 17 million acres of mostly old-growth forest, it’s also America’s largest national forest and a critical carbon sink in the global fight against climate change. Learn more about what’s at stake with this special place.

Why are Roadless Areas Important?

Tongass National Forest. Photo by Howie Garber.

Wild forests are a defense against climate change 
Wild forests act as “Carbon sinks.” Trees pull carbon from the atmosphere and store—or “sequester”—it. The underlying soil absorbs some of that heat-trapping gas as well, making forests an increasingly valuable tool in combating climate change. The Tongass stores more climate-disrupting pollution in its old growth forests and rich soils than any other national forest in the United States – earning its name, “America’s Climate Forest.” 

Roadless areas support thriving populations of fish and wildlife 
Logging and road building pose major threats to salmon populations and all those who rely on them, including Southern Resident orca. The Tongass supports healthy salmon runs for all 5 species of Pacific salmon, as returns across Washington State continue to show declines.

Defending the Roadless Rule protects Washington State’s wild places 

Washington Wild has fought to defend roadless areas across Washington since 2006. Nearly 2 million acres in Washington State are protected under the Roadless Rule, including large swaths of Wenatchee-Okanagan National Forest, the Dark Divide in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and South Quinault Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula – all magnificent places that shape our legacy as a wild and green state.

Under our leadership, 769 Washington State stakeholders have formally supported the 2001 National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Rule.


Photo by Howie Garber

A Repeal of the Roadless Rule Anywhere is a Threat Everywhere

In 2019, the Trump Administration announced an extreme proposal to roll back Roadless protections in the Tongass. Exemptions to the Roadless Rule anywhere are a threat to Roadless Areas here in Washington, which is why we led local opposition to this extreme policy change.

2023 UPDATE: In January, we celebrated a major victory when the Biden Administration finally reinstated the Roadless Rule in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest!


Read more about the history of our work fighting for Roadless Forests at the links below.

Tongass National Forest Protected!

Yesterday, January 25th, the U.S. Forest Service officially announced that it had finalized plans to repeal the Trump administration’s 2019 decision that exempted the Tongass and reinstate the Roadless Rule. […]

A flowing river enters into the sea with snow capped mountain peaks in the distance

Washington Wild Leads Local Efforts to Support Reinstating Roadless Area Protections in the Tongass National Forest

Yesterday marked the end of the 60-day formal comment period to collect public input on the Biden Administration’s proposal to restore National Forest Roadless Area protections in Alaska’s Tongass National […]

Positive Media Attention Grows in Support of National Forest Roadless Protections

The Biden Administration recently announced steps to restore national forest roadless area protections in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The proposal is a repeal of the Trump Administration’s 2020 Alaska Roadless […]

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