Statement: Introduction of Roadless Area Conservation Act is a key step to safeguarding America’s wild spaces

Media Contacts

This legislation will strengthen protections for roadless areas in national forests, including the threatened Tongass National Forest in Alaska

Environment America

WASHINGTON — Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Reps. Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Diana DeGette of Colorado introduced the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2021 Tuesday with 15 Senate cosponsors and 60 House co-sponsors. This new act would reinforce the 2001 Roadless Rule, which was enacted as a federal regulation by the Clinton administration 20 years ago today. Specifically, the bill would protect almost 60 million acres of roadless areas from road building, road reconstruction and logging. America’s roadless areas are essential for safeguarding countless species’ habitats, drinking water for millions of Americans and recreation opportunities for hikers, fishers and climbers. 

If enacted, this law would have an immediate impact on the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. Recently, the Trump administration removed 9.2 million acres of that forest from the Roadless Rule’s protection. Now, this breathtaking area is under the threat of logging and road building. 

Ellen Montgomery, Public Lands Director for Environment America, issued the following statement:

“The vision behind the Roadless Rule is to keep pristine areas in America’s forests untamed and wild. The rule has done that for exactly 20 years, protecting habitats for thousands of wildlife species, preserving clean water sources for millions of Americans, and providing fantastic recreation and outdoor experiences for people wanting to get into the wild. But 20 years must be just the beginning. Some of the trees in these areas are older than the United States. We have to protect them for the long haul. 

“We thank the bill’s sponsors, who are introducing this on the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Roadless Rule to make a point. If the past two decades, and in particular the last four years, have taught us anything, it’s that there will be attacks on this conservation policy. That’s why we need to enshrine it in a congressionally mandated law. Right now is the time to strengthen this rule and demonstrate our commitment to protecting some of the most awe-inspiring places in our National Forests. 

“We need more nature in our lives, and we get more value out of protecting our national forests for the long-haul than we do from allowing logging companies to harvest more logs. Whether it’s the Tongass National Forest in Alaska or the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is shared between Nevada and California, these forests need to be protected for the sake of so many species — from gray wolves to wolverines — and for all Americans.”