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Media Attention on National Forest Roadless Areas Grows

Posted on Dec 17, 2019 in Conservation News, Forest Management, Roadless

In October, the Trump Administration announced a controversial proposal to eliminate long standing protections for unlogged old-growth forests within Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The ancient forests are part of the last remaining intact temperate rainforest on the planet and are champions of absorbing harmful greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. Media attention has quickly grown in opposition to the Trump Administration’s plan both throughout Washington State and nationwide.

On 12/1/19, The Spokesman-Review featured an Op-Ed “Paul Fish: Keep backcountry roadless area protections throughout the West” detailing the dangers of eliminating all roadless areas in Alaska’s national forests, an issue that Washington Wild has led on.

Mountain Gear’s nearly 50 employees and thousands of customers are just the tip of the iceberg in a sustainable and growing national recreational economy. The recreational uses and values of roadless areas and other public lands serve as a key foundation. According to a 2017 study conducted by the Outdoor Industry Association, in Washington state alone our industry generates $26 billion in annual consumer spending, creates 200,000 jobs, and brings in $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. Public land policies like the Roadless Rule are essential to the economic benefits to local businesses and local communities like Spokane.

On 12/6/19, the Seattle Times featured an Op-Ed “Save the rare wild beauty of the Tongass National Forest from renewed logging” by Elsa M. Sebastian, a second-generation fisherman, and Marina Anderson, tribal vice president for the Organized Village of Kasaan. Sebastian and Anderson call on elected officials to leave the Roadless Rule in-tact.

We ask that our elected officials set aside their outdated politics, stop conjuring falsehoods about impacts to communities and start treating the wishes of a clear majority of their constituents with a degree of respect. Our government should protect salmon and wildlife habitat, and the rare wild beauty of the Tongass which nourishes our tourism economy. When Southeast Alaska’s communities participate in public process, we should be listened to.

On 12/8/19, The Everett Herald published an Op-Ed by Alaskan second-generation salmon fishermen Tele Aadsen and Joel Brady-Power, “Commentary: Northwest must speak for trees, salmon in Alaska” highlighting the value of “America’s Salmon Forest.”

Today, commercial fishing, tourism and recreation industries account for more than 25 percent of jobs in the region, directing approximately $1 billion each into Southeast Alaska’s annual economy. But the region’s value can’t be measured simply by livelihoods. Past and present, people’s cultural traditions and ways of life rely on preserving this ecosystem.

On 12/8/19, The Spokesman-Review published a Letter-to-the-editor “Continue roadless area protection” by Denis Bassett of Spokane.

For me it’s not that natural areas simply offer recreational opportunities but that, in a spiritual sense, these vast areas are foundational to my sense of well-being. I know for many people and for me certainly, knowing that these great regions exist and are protected makes me feel that life on this tiny planet is sustainable. 

On 12/11/19, The Seattle Times published a Letter-to-the-editor “The true value of our national forests” by Nete Olsen. 

Exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule would cut 800-year-old trees in part of the world’s largest temperate rainforest, jeopardize salmon spawning streams and disrupt some of the last wildest places in the United States, just to prop up a pair of struggling timber mills.

On 12/11/19, The Seattle Times published another Letter-to-the-editor, “Rainforest protection begins here in our region”  by Thomas O’Keefe, American Whitewater.

While it’s easy to feel helpless as we watch the Amazon rainforest diminish in size every year, we are witnessing these same threats in our own backyard. In Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, a proposal would allow new road construction and ill-advised logging that would rip apart the fabric of the ecosystem. We need to uphold the integrity of the Roadless Rule that protects 9 million acres of intact roadless areas on the Tongass; we need to reject the Trump Administration’s proposal to open these remaining stands of ancient forest to development and resource extraction that will impact the landscape for centuries. 

On 12/13/19, The Seattle Times published a Letter-to-the-editor, “National forests: Places of healing” by Rick Hegdahl, VetVoice.

The ability to connect with our public lands, including roadless areas, is essential to the American experience and provides important values to veterans. Like so many Americans, veterans count on our national roadless areas for fishing, hiking, camping, and hunting. Some veterans turn to the outdoors to heal from the trauma of war and renew bonds with family members after long deployments. 

On 12/17/19, The Everett Herald published a Letter-to-the-editor, “Alaska’s Tongass National Forest” by Allen Gibbs.

In Washington, ancient forests provide important habitat for endangered bird species like marbled murrelets that rely on the large mossy limbs, and spotted owls needing other unique features of old-growth forests. Much of what was protected as Wilderness in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was high elevation alpine areas that, while ecologically valuable, are not the old-growth forest habitats needed by the murrelet and spotted owl that remain in our national forest roadless areas.

Photo by Howie Garber

Take Action to Support Roadless Forests HERE


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.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule is a popular and balanced policy that protects nearly 60 million acres of undeveloped national forests from road-building and other industrial activity. It was developed over two years and issued by the Clinton Administration in early 2001.

Roadless areas are important because:

  • Sixty million Americans rely on clean and safe drinking waterfrom National Forests. Roadless areas provide the purest source of water due to their pristine and road-free condition. In the Northwest Forest Service Region, which includes Washington and Oregon, drinking water on National Forest land is worth approximately $941 million annually, which is more than any other region or state in the country except California.
  • Outdoor recreationhas become more and more popular over time as Americans participate in everything from hiking and camping, to hunting and fishing in Roadless areas. Each year the outdoor industry generates 26.2 billion in consumer spending and 200,000 direct jobs to the Washington State economy.
  • A majority of the unspoiled habitat for hundreds of threatened, endangered, and declining speciesis found in Roadless areas. In Washington, 25 at-risk species, including bald eagles, steelhead and bull trout, and Chinook salmon are found in National Forests and could be harmed by the building of new roads and the ensuing destruction of Roadless areas.
  • Roadless protections also make good economic sense by saving taxpayers’ dollarson the cost of adding subsidized logging roads to the existing network of nearly 375,000 miles of national forest roads, which have an unfunded maintenance backlog of nearly $8 billion.