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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Continued Threats to Roadless Areas

Here we are, back again, talking about impending threats to our roadless areas. At Washington Wild we were very excited when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the national Roadless Rule once again. See our press release on this important development. The court’s decision to deny a motion filed by the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association for a rehearing of the court’s October 2011 decision effectively made the Roadless Rule the “law of the land.”

So how it is possible that there can be more threats to this rule?

Recent legislative attacks are once again threatening the integrity of national roadless area protections. Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has proposed legislation that targets many of our last remaining wild and roadless areas. The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act (H.R. 1581 and S. 1087), would essentially roll back protections for most of the nearly 60 million acres of roadless areas in our National Forest and eliminate the Forest Services’ decades long attempt to balance uses on our federal lands.

Here in Washington State, this legislation would eliminate protections for every acre of our nearly 2 million acres of inventoried roadless areas. These areas include the Dark Divide between Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams and the Kettle Range in the Colville National Forest. The ’Roadless Release Act’ could potentially open up these areas to destructive uses such as road building, commercial logging, mining, and other harmful developments.

Recently, Washington Wild reached out to local faith leaders and businesses in southwest Washington to write their Congressional representative opposing the ‘Roadless Release Act.’ In all more than 50 faith leaders from seven different religious denominations signed a letter expressing their support of roadless forest protections. They were joined in a separate letter by several local businesses. To read our update and both letters, click here.

But wait, there is more…

Another bill in the House and Senate that proposes threats to our national roadless areas is the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Job Protection Act (H.R. 1408 and S. 730). This legislation would give the Sealaska Corporation the ability to select public federal lands beyond what the corporation had chosen previously under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1972. Unfortunately, the lands they have chosen include old growth forests and inventoried roadless areas within the Tongass National Forest. The Sealaska Corporation is notorious for clear-cutting large swaths of mature and old growth forests in Southeastern Alaska decimating local ecosystems, and ruining the livelihoods and economies of nearby villages.

Washington Wild led efforts to produce a letter from local conservation, recreation, sportsmen and faith leaders calling for roadless areas and the old growth forests they protect be removed from the Sealaska bill. Read our press release to learn more about this legislation.

Washington Wild led efforts statewide to advocate for the Roadless Rule and it protections in 1999 and has led efforts in the state to defend it since it was established in 2001. Despite a decade of administrative and legal attacks on this balanced policy, with our national partners we have allowed only 7 miles of new roads in nearly 60 Million acres of roadless forests nationwide.

But no rest for the weary...

Washington Wild has been working hard to defend our roadless areas against these attacks by engaging supporters like you and helping to ensure the implementation of the Roadless Rule here in Washington. We are planning to stand strong against any upcoming attacks such as the ones outlined above. We encourage you to read more about each of these attacks on our Congressional Attacks webpage. Want to get involved and do your part to protect our roadless areas? Join the fight to defend our roadless forests and become a member of Washington Wild today!

Zac Eskenazi is Washington Wild's new Conservation and Outreach Associate. A Seattle native, born and raised in Ballard, he enjoys cooking with friends and family and of course playing in the great outdoors.

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