By Billy Frank, Nisqually Tribal Elder
For a thousand generations we have cherished the forests of our region. The tribal way of life has been sustained by giant cedars along our rivers, and by ancient firs and pines along the snow-capped Cascades.
Many forests have been destroyed since the days of my grandfathers. But more than two million acres of remaining roadless forests still provide some spiritual places to observe our traditional ways with pure water, wildlife, native plants and upriver salmon spawning grounds. They also still provide recreational opportunities that contribute greatly to a healthy and sustainable economy. Roadless areas are still the backbone of our Mother Earth in this region, and we must do whatever is necessary to protect them.
Children seven generations from now will still be able to experience free-flowing streams and cascading waterfalls, and many species of plant and animal life, if we care enough to safeguard them from the polluting effects of development.
People today have a golden opportunity to help preserve such gifts for future generations. As it has been, so it shall be — if we work together to protect those things the Creator has entrusted to our care. Children seven generations from now will still be able to experience free-flowing streams and cascading waterfalls, and many species of plant and animal life, if we care enough to safeguard them from the polluting effects of development.
I applaud the Governor’s commitment to protect roadless areas. For the sake of our common future, I have stood with her in demanding the restoration of the 2001 Roadless Rule. This rule was one of great foresight and wisdom. It protected roadless areas by prohibiting new road construction and most commercial logging.
But in 2005, the Forest Service repealed the safeguards, directing governors to go through lengthy, costly petition processes to reinstate roadless areas. Since then, our governor has worked to restore protections for these forests, and the tribes support her every step of the way. First, she asked the federal government to expedite the process for protecting these areas, without additional cost. We stood with her. The request was denied so she joined a lawsuit with three other western states to directly challenge the new regulations. We still stood with her. In September, the court reinstated the 2001 rule. Proudly, we’re still standing with this great governor.
The court decision has been appealed, predictably. Indians learned long ago that the greed of those willing to spit in the face of Mother Nature for profit is insatiable. Such things could make one bitter. But bitterness is a circular trail that goes nowhere. Rather, I take heart from the overwhelming public support the governor has received for saving roadless areas — and also from the friendship the state and tribes have retained through this effort. It helps me envision a day when the spark of conservation that has always existed deep in the hearts of people here will one day kindle into the flame of stewardship and active responsibility we will need to protect our common environment. We will win this court appeal because we must.
Billy Frank Jr., a Nisqually Tribal Elder, has been Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for more than 25 years. As such, he is the natural resource management spokesman for the 20 Treaty Indian Tribes in Western Washington. He is acknowledged as a great leader among tribal and non-tribal communities, and has been the recipient of many national and regional honors, including the American Indian Visionary Award, the Schweitzer Humanitarian Award and an honorary law degree from the University of Puget Sound.