Representatives Inslee and Boehlert Step In To Protect America's Last Wild Forests
More than 150 Democrats and Republicans, led by Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), introduced legislation today in the U.S. House of Representatives providing permanent protection for 58.5 million acres of pristine forest land in 39 states, including 9.3 million acres of North America's only coastal temperate rainforest -- Alaska's Tongass National Forest. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John Warner (R-VA) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate today.
"We commend Reps. Inslee and Boehlert for their leadership in protecting our last wild forests," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Conservation Advocate, U.S. PIRG. "With the Forest Service signaling their intent to change the rule and moving forward with plans to log in protected roadless areas, Congressional action to stop these efforts could not be more timely."
A recent ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has placed the rule into effect for the first time since its adoption. However, the Bush administration has signaled its intent to alter the rule and is currently planning 49 large-scale timber sales in roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest. They are also proposing forest management plans across the country that would open up roadless areas to logging.
"The actions taken by the Bush administration continue to promote logging in roadless areas," said Robert Vandermark, Co-Director, Heritage Forests Campaign. "Fortunately, the administration may not have the final word. Congress is listening to the American people and taking steps to ensure that old-growth and giant redwood forests are around for future generations."
The rule was approved in January 2001 following years of scientific study, more than 600 public meetings across the country, and 1.6 official public comments. While protecting the last one-third of our threatened national forests from most logging and road-building, the rule allows new roads to be constructed in order to fight fires and ensure public health and safety.
From high-altitude aspen wilderness to low-lying grasslands, roadless areas encompass a cross section of pristine forest land, and are the last remaining strongholds for grizzly bears, wolves, elk, salmon, and trout. Every year millions of Americans hike, fish and hunt in our national forests and live off the clean drinking water from the forest headwaters and streams.