“Thank you to House and Senate leaders for their unwavering commitment to protecting our nation’s forests across the country,” said Bart Johnsen-Harris, senior representative, government relations. “More than 1.6 million Americans supported the roadless rule from the start. We will continue to fight to protect our forests from destructive logging and roadbuilding in places that imperiled species call home.”

“Protecting our nation’s forests protects recreation, conserves critical habitat for imperiled species and helps mitigate climate change as our forests absorb significant levels of carbon emissions. This legislation will protect our nation’s forests while also addressing climate change head on.”

Washington, DC

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service on January 12, 2001 to conserve wildlands, watersheds and wildlife habitat within national forest lands by preventing development within areas that had not been touched by road building and logging. Protecting nearly 60 million acres of unroaded areas within the national forest system, the rule is one of America’s most important conservation achievements.

Today, on the 20th anniversary of the rule, Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), with 61 additional members of the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2021 to protect roadless areas within our national forests. 

“I am proud to continue the fight to preserve the Roadless Rule in this new Congress,” said Rep. Gallego. “In addition to protecting our unique and beautiful wilderness and upholding our federal trust responsibility to Indigenous communities, the reintroduction and widespread support of the Roadless Area Conservation Act sends a united message to the incoming administration that codifying the Roadless Rule and protecting undeveloped, pristine forests are vital and achievable steps we must take.”

Additionally, the Senate will reintroduce a companion bill led by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) with 15 additional senators which will protect millions of acres of pristine national forests. 

“The looming climate crisis has only increased the need to protect America’s last remaining wild forestlands, which reduce wildland fire risk and store huge amounts of carbon,” said Senator Cantwell. “Roadless areas provide Americans with unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities, clean drinking water for our communities, and habitat for numerous endangered species. As we mark the twentieth anniversary of this landmark proposal, we need to redouble our efforts to permanently preserve the benefits these public lands provide our nation and future generations.” 

The Roadless Area Conservation Act would codify the 2001 Roadless Rule, which limits costly roadbuilding and destructive logging on roadless lands across the national forest system. The bill would protect hunting and fishing, safeguard recreational opportunities, and provide critical habitat for 1,600 threatened and endangered species, while providing clean drinking water to millions of Americans. 

“Thank you to House and Senate leaders for their unwavering commitment to protecting our nation’s forests across the country,” said Bart Johnsen-Harris, senior representative, government relations. “More than 1.6 million Americans supported the roadless rule from the start. We will continue to fight to protect our forests from destructive logging and roadbuilding in places that imperiled species call home.” 

Like many other bedrock conservation laws, the Trump administration chipped away at the protections that the Roadless Rule afforded by revoking the rule for 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest this past October. 

“The Roadless Rule is one of our nation’s most broadly supported environmental policies,” said DeGette. “It protects tens of millions of acres of untouched forest land for people to enjoy. With a new administration and a new Congress, we’re going to continue our fight to codify this rule into law - and protect our public lands for generations to come.” 

The Roadless Rule protects about 9.2 million acres in the Tongass, including old-growth trees and habitat for salmon, Alexander Archipelago wolves and Sitka black-tailed deer, from logging and associated roadbuilding. According to the Forest Service, 96% of commenters on the proposal wanted to see the roadless rule remain in place. But despite this overwhelming support for protecting our national forest lands, the administration decided to ignore the public and instead paved the way for more logging and roadbuilding in the Tongass. 

Yet, timber sales have been a bad deal for the American taxpayer. Over the past four decades, timber sales in the Tongass have cost American taxpayers $1.96 billion while generating only $227 million in revenue—a loss of more than $40 million a year—according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. 

Conservationists will advocate that President-elect Joe Biden undo Trump’s destructive environmental policies and reinstate the Roadless Area Conservation Rule for the Tongass. 

“Protecting our nation’s forests protects recreation, conserves critical habitat for imperiled species and helps mitigate climate change as our forests absorb significant levels of carbon emissions,” said Johnsen-Harris. “This legislation will protect our nation’s forests while also addressing climate change head on.”

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

Gwen Dobbs
Gwen Dobbs
Director of Media Relations
gdobbs@defenders.org
(202) 772-0269

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