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Washington stakeholders join call for President-elect Obama to implement Roadless Rule

Two million acres of Washington forestland would gain protection from Roadless Rule reinstatement

Public officials and environmental leaders today called on President-elect Barack Obama to take swift action to reinstate and implement the Roadless Area Conservation Rule for protecting America's roadless forests.

Washington Jan 12, 2009

After eight years of holding the line against consistent attempts to weaken popular protections for some of the nation’s most pristine national forests, public officials and environmental leaders today called on President-elect Barack Obama to take swift action to implement the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Today marks the eight-year anniversary of the historic rule, which protects more than 58 million acres of undeveloped forestland, including nearly 2 million acres in Washington State.

As part of a national campaign launch, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Michael Dombeck, Congressional members and conservation groups specifically asked the incoming Obama administration to suspend road-building, drilling and other industrial activity in national forests that would violate the rule, until it can be fully implemented.

“As we enter this historic period of change, we can learn from other visionary leaders of our past, such as President Theodore Roosevelt. A century ago he created the national forest system, knowing that pristine forests are national treasures that should belong to all Americans, not special interests,” said U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA01). “There’s a strong coalition in Congress that would support the Administration taking action to protect our nation’s forests. I would support the reinstatement of the Roadless Rule.”

Roadless areas serve as critical refuges for wildlife. The Forest Service determined that new road construction in roadless areas would likely adversely impact a number of rare or endangered species in Washington state, including Canada lynx, bald eagles, brown pelicans, northern spotted owls, Snake River sockeye salmon, Hood Canal summer chum salmon, Lower Columbia River and Puget Sound chinook salmon, Columbia River and Snake River steelhead, and bull trout.

“Upholding the Roadless Area Conservation Rule is important to Washington’s hunters and anglers,” said Joe LaTourrette, West Coast Policy Consultant, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “By reducing stream sedimentation, habitat fragmentation and vehicle disturbance to wildlife, roadless areas guarantee protection for some of the most productive and secure forested habitat in Washington—which in turn improves opportunities for quality trout fishing and access to healthier deer and elk herds."

The roadless rule was a product of years of scientific analysis and a record amount of overwhelmingly supportive public input. Since 2001, a broad array of local stakeholders and user groups throughout Washington State have strongly supported the rule, ranging from elected officials, hunters and anglers, religious leaders and tribes.

“Ever since the tribes in western Washington signed treaties with the federal government, we’ve seen our pristine forest and salmon habitat slowly degraded and destroyed,” said Billy Frank Jr., chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “We can draw the line here and say these last refuges of the world we used to know will not be destroyed. Salmon and the water quality and habitat that sustain them are too important for us not to fight for the roadless rule.”

The Bush administration attempted to undo the rule and replace it with one that would allow national forest protections to be determined on a state-by-state basis. The move was challenged by environmentalists and is currently the subject of litigation in two federal appellate courts. While in the U.S. Senate, President-elect Obama co-sponsored legislation that would codify the rule, and his presidential campaign endorsed the policy as part of its conservation platform.

“Paddling along remote rivers and waterways—the original highways used to explore our great nation—offers a truly unique way to experience our national forests and some of the last vestiges of wild and unspoiled lands in America,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director, American Whitewater. “Indeed, roadless areas are home to some of the most scenic and challenging whitewater paddling opportunities around.”

More information on the roadless rule and the 2009 campaign to restore it


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