By Jim Whittaker
Growing up in Seattle, with Mount Rainier, the Olympics and the Cascades beckoning, I developed a passion for the natural world and climbing. Whether in the damp, clean air of an ancient forest or on a snowy summit, the beauty and richness of the wild places within Washington are an inspiration and comfort to millions of Washington residents a year.
The 2 million acres of roadless forests here in Washington State are a critical part of the quality of life we have come to expect. Roadless forests provide much of our clean water and safe drinking water, besides protecting fish and wildlife.
Along the east side of the Olympic National Forest, near Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and my now hometown of Port Townsend, roadless forests make available the chance for adventure by hiking, camping, kayaking, bicycling, climbing, hunting and fishing, backcountry skiing, wildlife viewing and much more. You can traverse through old-growth forests and climb Mount Washington for spectacular views of Seattle and the Cascade Peaks. You can mountain bike through the Dungeness River Valley or hike one of the many trails — from trekking along the ledges of Dirt Face Ridge to taking kid-friendly trips to Murhut Falls or Lena Lake.
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 100,000 jobs in Washington and contributes more than $11 billion dollars to our state’s economy.
As a U.S. senator and as a candidate for the White House, President Obama was up-front about his support for the Roadless Rule. The recent one-year moratorium on road building by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was a welcome reprieve, but now we need further action.
As our towns and cities continue to grow, it is more critical than ever to have safeguards in place in order to maintain our wildlife habitats. And for humans, they offer the opportunity for adventure, as well as for peace and solitude.
The president must act now to ensure the long-term protection of the public’s roadless forestlands by reinstating the Roadless Rule. Our congressional leaders must join Sen. Maria Cantwell, Congressman Jay Inslee and others in their efforts to enact legislation to protect these valuable wild places. Preserving roadless forests ensures the passing of a natural heritage for future generations to enjoy.
Excerpt from Seattle Times, Guest Editorial, “Make roadless forest area rule permanent,” July 14, 2008.