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Protecting the Wild Forests of Washington

Posted on Dec 1, 2006 in Conservation Voices, WA Wild Blog

By Christine Gregoire, former Governor of the state of WashingtonChristine Gregoire

Roadless forests in Washington define the unique quality of life that we enjoy in the Pacific Northwest. They provide us with clean and safe drinking water and habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as world-class recreation opportunities that contribute to our economy.

That is why I am committed to seeing that these lands remain protected. The 2001 Roadless Rule provided popular and balanced protections for more than two million acres of roadless areas in Washington. The rule prohibited new road construction and most commercial logging.

In May 2005, the U.S. Forest Service repealed safeguards for roadless areas unless Governors engaged in a lengthy and costly process to re-protect roadless areas in their state by submitting an optional petition for consideration. Since then, I have consistently worked to restore the protections for our roadless forests.

In November 2005, I formally requested the federal government allow an expedited option for states like Washington to retain protection of these areas, without additional cost or process. That request was denied.

In February, I joined a lawsuit with three other Western states to directly challenge the new regulations in court. On September 20, a federal district court judge ruled in favor of our legal challenge, invalidating the state petition regulations and reinstating protections under the 2001 rule.

I asked to hear from Washington citizens in preparation for submitting a petition to protect all of our roadless areas under the new regulations. Because our law suit was successful, there is currently no opportunity or need to file a state petition under the invalidated regulations.

The September 20 ruling has been appealed and we must wait to be sure that the decision holds. I will be vigilant and save the responses from the comment period in case a state petition becomes necessary in the future.

Nearly 12,000 were sent to my office from individuals, organizations, agencies and elected officials, and Washingtonians overwhelmingly reiterated their support for roadless forest protection:

  • 98% expressed support for protection of roadless areas
  • 90% supported strong restrictions on road construction and commercial logging in these areas
  • 84% identified habitat as an important value roadless areas

Once again, Washingtonians have shown their support for protecting our quality of life and I will continue to work to keep these lands protected.

Christine Gregoire is the former Governor of the state of Washington. She also previously served as Washington State Attorney General.