Cantwell Heralds Full Restoration of Tongass National Forest Protections

Biden Admin announces full reversal of Trump directive that stripped protections for over 9 million acres of pristine Alaskan forestlands, including old-growth stands

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released a statement following the announcement from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that the Department plans to fully restore environmental protections for over 9 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The Forest Service also announced it plans to end future large-scale timber sales in Tongass and offer $25 million for restoration, wildlife management and habitat improvement.

“This is phenomenal news for one of world's last great remaining temperate forests and an enduring gift to the Pacific Northwest tourism and fishing jobs that rely on protecting the Tongass’ nine million plus acres of pristine forest lands,” said Senator Cantwell. “I hope this decision will help spur Congress to focus on permanently protecting the almost 60 million acres of remaining wild national forests by codifying the Roadless rule into law.”

Cantwell led the fight against the Trump Administration’s flawed Tongass rulemaking. Last October, she led a bicameral group of lawmakers in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue that blasted the administration’s decision to strip protections from protected areas of the world's largest temperate rainforest. In July 2019, Senator Cantwell led another bicameral letter to Purdue expressing concerns over the rulemaking process, the lack of adequate consultation with local stakeholders, and urging the Department to schedule additional scoping meetings in other areas of the country, like Seattle. And in August 2019, she blasted the administration over its decision to move forward with eliminating protections for the Tongass. In November 2019, Senator Cantwell also spoke at a public meeting in Seattle to support Roadless Forests.

Senator Cantwell has also been the lead Senate champion of the 2001 Roadless Rule, which for two decades has shielded almost 60 million acres of some of the most pristine and treasured areas within the National Forest System from roadbuilding and logging. She has repeatedly introduced legislation to codify the Roadless Rule into law, including as early as 2001. Last January, on its twentieth anniversary, 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. 

Video from November, 2019 public meeting to support Roadless Forests HERE.