Cantwell Decries Trump Administration Move to Strip Protections from Tongass National Forest

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) blasted the Trump administration’s move to eliminate critical protections for 9.3 million acres of roadless areas in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The move will eliminate long-standing rules that protect the Tongass, which holds eight percent of all the carbon stored in U.S. national forests, from harmful clear-cut logging and road-building. The announcement that protections would be stripped from the Tongass follows press reports that President Trump personally intervened with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to push the changes through and that the president advocated for a broader, more environmentally-destructive option.

“Overturning protections for the Earth’s largest remaining intact temperate rainforest will be one of the most enduring legacies of the Trump Administration’s environmental corruption,” said Cantwell. “Local Alaskans, Native Tribes, and Washingtonians understand that protecting Southeast Alaska’s $2 billion commercial fishing and tourism economy is a much bigger and more sustainable way to benefit from our natural inheritance. This blatant overreach ignores the science and the will of the people, and underscores the need to permanently protect our nation’s last remaining wild forests by codifying the Roadless Rule.”

In July 2019, Senator Cantwell led a bicameral letter to Agriculture Secretary Purdue expressing concerns over the rulemaking process, the lack of adequate consultation with local stakeholders, and urging the Department to schedule additional scoping meetings in other areas of the country, like Seattle. And in August 2019, she blasted the administration over its decision to move forward with eliminating protections for the Tongass. In those letters, Cantwell raised concerns about the ability of local Native Tribes to participate in the rulemaking process and asked the Forest Service to incorporate public comments. Those requests were ignored.

Senator Cantwell has long been the leading Senate champion to protect the 2001 Roadless Rule, which limits costly roadbuilding and destructive logging on roadless landscapes across the National Forest System, including the Tongass. The popular rule preserves over 58 million acres of America’s last remaining wild forest, including nearly two million acres in Washington state, helping protect hunting and fishing opportunities, provide critical habitat for 1,600 threatened or endangered species, lessen wildland fire risk, and supply clean drinking water to millions of Americans in 39 states and more than 350 communities across the United States.

In May 2019, Cantwell reintroduced her legislation to codify the 2001 Rule into law along with 19 other of her colleagues including Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining. Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-7) leads the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Cantwell has been the leading Senate champion of the Roadless Rule since it was overturned by the Bush administration in 2001.