Today, guidebook author Craig Romano published an opinion piece in the Seattle Times detailing the multiple benefits of our roadless areas, and letting people know the time to act is now to defend them. Read the full Op-Ed.
Romano provides a timely call to action to Seattle Times readers:
“Now, more than ever, it’s time to speak up about preserving these pristine areas and the protections that keep them that way. An attack on the Roadless Rule anywhere is an attack on roadless forests everywhere.“
From 1999 to 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, during the draft rule comment period. More than 95% of comments submitted were in support of protecting roadless areas.
The Roadless 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 with widespread partisan support
However, our roadless areas, both here in Washington State and across the nation are under threat. Earlier this year, Alaska Senators attempted to exempt Alaska’s national forests from the Roadless Rule through a legislative rider attached to a funding bill. After their legislative attempts failed, Alaska’s Governor Bill Walker has asked the Trump Administration to weaken roadless area protections on Alaska’s national forests through a rule making. In addition, now the Utah Governor Gary Herbert has made it clear he also has plans to ask the administration to exempt his state from roadless area protections as well.
Washington Wild thanks Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray who have both supported legislation to make the current administrative protections of the roadless rule permanent and to protect our state’s 2 million acres of roadless areas that deserve to be preserved for future generations. Make your voice heard and protect the Tongass and our roadless areas now!
Why are Roadless Areas Important?
- Sixty million Americans rely on clean and safe drinking water from National Forests. Roadless areas provide the purest source of that 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 recreation has become more popular over time as Americans participate in everything from hiking and camping, to hunting and fishing in Roadless areas. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, 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 species is 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’ dollars on the cost of adding subsidized logging roads to the existing network of more than 370,000 miles of national forest roads, which have an unfunded maintenance backlog of nearly $8 billion.