New proposal would permanently protect our wildest forests from logging and road-building

Olympic National Forest (Washington) contains thousands of acres of forest that would be protected permanently under a new law.

Credit: Mason Cummings (TWS).

Legislation introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell would permanently instate the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, protecting the wildest parts of national forests from road construction, timber harvesting and other development.

The Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2018 would protect nearly 60 million acres of America's wildest national forest land, countering recent attacks by politicians at the national and state level.

This legislation, introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, would make the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule--usually simply called "the Roadless Rule"--permanent. That law established that some parts of the National Forest System should not allow road construction, timber harvesting and other development. The patches of forest where the Roadless Rule is in effect are called "inventoried roadless areas." These make up nearly 30 percent of national forest land, and they are popular destinations for hiking, camping and other recreation.

“Despite such benefits and overwhelming public support of the Roadless Rule, the Trump administration and its allies in Congress are determined to weaken the rule at all costs, including opening millions of acres of old growth forests in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to roadbuilding and logging," said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams in a statement. “We call upon Senator Cantwell’s colleagues in Congress to listen to the majority of their constituents and support Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2018 to permanently protect America’s forests, wildlife and water supplies.”

For years, logging interests have led the charge to undermine or make exceptions to the Roadless Rule so they could invite road construction, timber harvesting and other development into inventoried roadless areas. In the last year, these attempts have intensified, with members of Congress and the state of Alaska trying to cut loopholes into the law.

Right off the bat, these recent attacks would have introduced logging and road-building to millions of acres of wild forest. But at a deeper level, they threatened to set a precedent of forest-by-forest or state-by-state exemptions that would have effectively destroyed the Roadless Rule itself.

The Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2018 forestalls such attempts and upholds a law that is vital for conserving public lands. Stay tuned for more on this important effort and how we can stand up for Our Wild Forests.

More: A gallery of American national forest lands

Kids in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Washington). Credit: U.S. Forest Service-Pacific Region via flickr.