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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.
The Federal Government is taking public comments on its plans to weaken protections for roadless forests on the Tongass National Forest, the Earth’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. We need to send a strong message against weakening roadless area protections starting in Alaska. If we don’t Washington State’s nearly two million acres of national forest roadless areas will be next! Let the government know today that you oppose taking these vital protections away. The deadline for comments is Monday, October 15th.
The Tongass National Forest is nationally renowned for its extraordinary temperate rainforests, stunning scenery, abundant salmon populations, and superlative wildlands. More than one million people from across the U.S. commented in favor of protecting all 9.3 million acres of Tongass National Forest inventoried roadless areas during the rulemaking process for the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule) in 2000. Since then, public appreciation of the roadless area values of the Tongass has only grown, as evidenced by the impressive growth of the tourist industry in southeast Alaska.
The Forest Service is considering changes in the Roadless Rule that could drastically impact some of the nation’s greatest forests and wildlands. These could have significant long term economic impacts to Washington State. The Tongass National Forest and its roadless areas are a central draw and attraction to visitation from Washingtonians and other tourists from around the country and the world. The forest watersheds, wildlife habitat and scenery directly support the visitor experience to nearby national park areas.
The Tongass National Forest is federal land owned by all Americans and its management matters beyond just Alaska. Here in Washington State, more than most areas, we have a direct connection to southeast Alaska in many ways. The Tongass National Forest is approximately 500 miles from the northern border of Washington State. Washington is the closest state to Alaska and shares a close business, economic and cultural connections.
Roadless areas are important because:
- Sixty million Americans rely on clean and safe drinking waterfrom 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 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’ 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.