Washington, DC (KINY) - U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Ruben Gallego, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to permanently protect millions of acres of national forests.
Also part of the effort is Senator Tom Udall, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Congresswoman Diana DeGette, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee; and Senator Ron Wyden, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining.
According to a press release, the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2019 would codify the 2001 Roadless Rule, which limits costly roadbuilding and destructive logging on roadless landscapes across the National Forest System in order to protect hunting and fishing opportunities, provide critical habitat for 1,600 threatened or endangered species, lessen wildland fire risk, and supply clean drinking water to millions of Americans in 39 states and more than 350 communities across the United States.
“The Roadless Rule protects key recreational areas, vital watersheds, and irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat,” Senator Cantwell said. “Hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians depend on roadless areas for clean drinking water and to drive our juggernaut outdoor recreation economy. It’s time to permanently safeguard our remaining undeveloped forest lands as the foundation of our outdoor recreation economy, a home for wildlife, and a heritage for future generations.”
“The Trump Administration’s reckless efforts to expedite the rollback of conservation protections on public lands – with limited public input – must be checked. Attacks on the Roadless Rule put our unique and beautiful wilderness at risk and undermine our federal trust responsibility to Indigenous communities. This bill will codify one of our national forests’ most important protections and prevent costly, environmentally-damaging roads from jeopardizing important conservation efforts in these pristine places,” said Rep. Gallego.
“Allowing development in our roadless wilderness areas would threaten the value they provide to small businesses, outdoor enthusiasts, and communities that depend on a thriving outdoor recreation economy,” Senator Udall said. “In New Mexico, our pristine public lands are what make our state the Land of Enchantment and the Roadless Area Conservation Rule is crucial in protecting these untouched places – safeguarding nearly 1.6 million acres in New Mexico alone like the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests. This legislation would prevent the Trump administration from rolling back protections that safeguard our drinking water sources, critical habitat for wildlife like the Mexican spotted owl and our most special places that belong to all Americans.”
“The Roadless Rule is one of the most broadly supported environmental policies in the country that protects nearly 60 million acres of untouched forests for people to enjoy – yet, now it’s under attack,” Rep. DeGette said. “We are not going to sit back and allow this administration to undo this important rule and the protections it provides some of our nation’s most treasured landscapes.”
The legislation would protect the remaining forests that make up only 31 percent of the country’s National Forest System. It would allow for continued forest management to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire and to promote forest health, while also preserving these relatively limited acres of public forest lands as a legacy for our children.
“We have lived off these lands in a sacred and caring way for generations, and we want to continue to live in our traditional ways for our children and our children’s children. Corporate logging cannot come before we the people. We also know the Tongass is important to help stop climate change for everyone around the world,” said Adrien Nichol Lee of the Tlingit Tribe, and President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 12 and keeper of cultural Tlingit education.