Congress Seeks Guaranteed Forest Protections

New legislation seeks guaranteed protections for millions of acres of wild national forest lands


Sarah Wilhoite, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500 

Two important bills introduced today will guarantee protection for millions of acres of America’s national forests. The bills, when enacted, will prohibit new road construction and reconstruction and provide critical forest protections.

“Today, Earthjustice applauds Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John Warner (R-VA) and Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA), Chris Shays (R-CT), George Miller (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN) for their leadership in protecting America’s last wild forests,” said Sarah Wilhoite, Legislative Representative for Earthjustice.

By introducing legislation to permanently protect roadless areas, these congressional champions will help put an end to the administration’s efforts to repeal the Roadless Rule in favor of logging and other development interests. A bipartisan group of more than 150 senators and representatives has voiced support for protecting these wild forests by codifying the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. For years, the Roadless Rule has been under attack by the timber and development industries and the Bush administration. The proposed legislation will remove the hostile regulatory environment surrounding this vital rule, and make the protections it affords permanent.

The companion bills introduced today each provide protection for 58.5 million acres of pristine national forest lands. These lands ultimately provide drinking water to millions of Americans and contain some of the best remaining fish and wildlife habitat in the entire national forest system. Americans understand that these areas are important to safeguard for future generations.

The administration has taken countless steps over the past six years on national forest policy to undermine protections for these areas and appease big timber, the oil and gas industry and other development interests. For example, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, our nation’s largest national forest, lost protection under Bush administration directives. From the utter failure to defend the roadless policy in court to the illegal repeal of the rule itself, the administration has shown nothing but contempt for the policy it is supposed to enforce.

“If the administration had its way it would pave paradise,” Wilhoite added. “With the help of environmental leaders in Congress, our last wild forests will be protected for future generations.”

More than half of the lands within the national forest system — public lands owned by all Americans — have already been subjected to development and road building. Roads increase fire risk and the spread of invasive species, while decreasing ecosystem benefits such as clean drinking water, and native fish and wildlife habitat.

Earthjustice has defended this rule in court time and again. Tomorrow in Wyoming, a federal judge will be hearing a case in which Wyoming seeks to block the Clinton-era Roadless Rule. For additional information on the hearing, contact Jim Angell at Earthjustice, (303) 996-9621. 

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