Cantwell Celebrates Renewal of Protections for America’s ‘Salmon Forest’

Forest Service announcement overturns Trump administration efforts to allow old-growth logging in Tongass National Forest in Alaska

WASHINGTON, DC. -- Yesterday, the United States Forest Service (USFS) announced that it has reinstated bans on logging and roadbuilding in the Tongass National Forest, helping ensure preservation of pristine forests and habitat for salmon, bears, and other iconic Pacific Northwest wildlife.

The Tongass National Forest encompasses over seventeen million acres of wild back country in Southeastern Alaska. The bans on logging and new roads – originally imposed in 2001 – were overturned at the direction of former President Donald Trump. The Tongass has been called the ‘salmon forest’, thanks to its 17,000 miles of free running rivers and lakes that produce 75 percent of Southeast Alaska’s commercial salmon catch, around 40 million fish valued at $68 million in 2020.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a longtime proponent of strong protections in the Tongass National Forest and senior member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, celebrated today’s Forest Service announcement.

“This is phenomenal news for one of the world's last great remaining temperate forests. The Tongass’ pristine forestlands are an enduring gift to the Pacific Northwest that supports thousands of regional tourism and fishing jobs.” Sen. Cantwell said. “The salmon runs, recreational appeal, and irreplaceable carbon storage the Tongass currently provides will always be more valuable to our communities than any subsidized logging projects."

Shortly after the Trump administration stripped away the Tongass protections, Sen. Cantwell led a bicameral group of lawmakers in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue that criticized the decision. In July 2019, Sen. Cantwell led another bicameral letter to Purdue that expressed concerns over the rulemaking and consultation processes and urged the Department to schedule additional scoping meetings in other areas of the country, like Seattle. And in August 2019, she blasted the Trump administration over its decision to move forward with eliminating protections for the Tongass.

Sen. Cantwell was also a leading Senate champion of the 2001 Roadless Rule, which for two decades shielded almost 60 million acres of some of the most pristine and treasured areas within the National Forest System from roadbuilding and logging across the country, including the nine million acres of the Tongass National Forest that were under threat.

She has repeatedly introduced legislation to codify the Roadless Rule into law, including as early as 2001. On the rule’s 20th anniversary, Sen. Cantwell announced the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2021 that would permanently protect 58.5 million of acres of national forest from logging and development—more than 31 percent of America’s National Forest System—including the South Quinault Ridge in Northwest Washington, the Dark Divide in Southwest Washington, the Kettle Range in Northeast Washington, and much of the Methow Valley Headwaters in Central Washington.