Cantwell, Gallego Blast Administration Move to Open Up Old-Growth Logging in Tongass

Decision rolls back decades-old Roadless Rule that protects air, water, and local jobs; Cantwell, Gallego have introduced legislation to permanently protect Tongass

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, criticized the Trump administration’s elimination of long-standing protections for roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. 

"The fate of millions of trees in the world’s largest remaining temperate old-growth forest should not hinge on a backroom political deal between President Trump and the Governor of Alaska,” said Senator Cantwell. “We need to protect the Tongass so that future generations can continue to benefit from the clean air and water and the 10,000 sustainable jobs this ancient ecosystem provides. The vast majority of Americans want to see the Tongass protected and I am optimistic the courts will once again overturn the administration’s scientifically shoddy environmental review process.” 

“The administration’s rushed and reckless plan to allow clear-cutting and road-building in huge swaths of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest will cause harm for generations to come,” said Subcommittee Chair Ruben Gallego. “Tongass National Forest is not only a pristine national treasure, the largest intact temperate forest in the world, and a key part of local tourism and recreation economies – it is also one of our most effective tools to mitigate climate change for future generations. That’s why it’s all the more important to pass my bill, the Roadless Area Conservation Act, as soon as possible to codify the Roadless Rule and its protections.” 

The Roadless Rule, developed by the U.S. Forest Service and finalized in 2001, limits costly roadbuilding and destructive logging on roadless landscapes across the National Forest System. The rule helps 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. This common-sense conservation safeguard remains overwhelmingly popular today. 

Earlier this year, Cantwell and Gallego introduced the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2019 to permanently protect millions of acres of pristine national forests by codifying the Roadless Rule into law. In July, they led a bicameral letter to Agriculture Secretary Purdue expressing concerns over the rulemaking process and the lack of adequate consultation with local stakeholders.