Cantwell Hails Court Ruling Upholding Roadless Forest Protections

Affirmation of legal issues may smooth path for federal legislation

SEATTLE, WA – Today,U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) put out the following statement on today’s unanimous decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate a lower court’s permanent injunction against the 2001 Roadless Rule. 

“I welcome the news that this court has rejected essentially every legal argument against protecting pristine forests,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “Today’s ruling affirms the 2001 Roadless Rule was a well-crafted, balanced policy which continues to enjoy strong public support.  The Roadless Rule is not just good environmental policy, but it protects outdoor industry jobs and helps stem the growth of the Forest Service’s road maintenance backlog.  We now have the wind at our backs as we continue working to codify the Roadless Rule into law to ensure future generations of Americans will continue to benefit from these last remaining wild forestlands.”  

Roadless areas in America’s national forests provide invaluable and irreplaceable societal and economic benefits worth billions of dollars annually by creating jobs, protecting air and water quality, preserving fish and wildlife habitat, and delivering unique outdoor recreational opportunities.  For example:

  • Roadless areas serve as the prime source of clean drinking water for almost 60 million Americans.
  • Roadless areas generate a significant portion of the outdoor industry’s $730 billion in annual revenues.
  • Roadless areas help to save taxpayer dollars by stemming the growth of the Forest Service’s estimated $10 billion road maintenance backlog.
  • Roadless areas provide exceptional habitat for fish and game and extraordinary experiences for hunting and fishing.
  • Roadless areas provide critical habitat 1,600 threatened or endangered plant and animal species.

Cantwell has long have championed the protection of America’s remaining roadless areas.  In fact, during her first week as a U.S. Senator, Cantwell raised implementation of the roadless rule as a primary concern during the January 2001 nomination hearing of President George W. Bush’s pick for attorney general, John Ashcroft.  She has introduced legislation in every Congress since to codify the Roadless Rule into law and challenged Administrative efforts to weaken or overturn it. 

National forests cover 9.2 million acres of Washington – about one-fifth of the state’s total land mass.  There are two million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the Evergreen State, including sites like Kettle River Range, Dark Divide and Lena Lake.