Cantwell Praises Administration's Decision to Protect Two Million Acres of Roadless Areas in Washington State

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Forest Service for taking steps to protect roadless areas in our national forests by reversing years of Bush Administration policies.  In March 2009, Cantwell sent a letter with 24 other senators to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the Obama Administration to act quickly to ensure that national forest roadless acres weren’t harmed because of uncertainty surrounding the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which was issued in January 2001.  The Forest Service today announced a directive stating that no road construction or removal of timber from more than 45 million of national forests protected by the Roadless Rule can take place without approval for one year.


“Today, the Obama Administration took an important first step towards ensuring the long-term protection of 49 million acres of pristine national forests, including two million acres in Washington state, from environmentally damaging development,” said Cantwell.  “This ‘timeout’ comes with overwhelming support from Congress.  Prompt action was needed to ensure that roadless areas in our national forests are not harmed while legal challenges over their status are being resolved.  I look forward to working with President Obama to restore the responsible balance and protections we had in place for these wild and pristine places just eight years ago.”


The Roadless Rule was signed in to law by President Clinton in 2001, yet since then, numerous conflicting court decisions have hindered the Forest Service’s ability to do its job.  The directive announced today will ensure that USDA can carefully consider what activities are conducted in these roadless areas, while long term roadless policy is developed, and relevant court cases move forward.


A copy of Cantwell’s March 2009 letter to Secretary Vilsack is attached



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