Washington, D.C.– Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and other leading Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee today promised targeted oversight following the U.S. Forest Service’s proposal to roll back existing protections for millions of acres of roadless national forests in Alaska. By undoing decades of environmental protections in roadless areas, the Trump administration threatens severe damage to millions of acres of pristine ecosystems, irreplaceable habitats and invaluable watersheds – all to support unnecessarily cutting down our country’s largest old-growth forest.
The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule provided protections for nearly 60 million acres of roadless national forest, including more than 9 million acres in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. The roadless rule helps protect clean water, wildlife habitat, and indigenous and subsistence uses. Roadless areas are important defenses against climate change thanks to their carbon storage potential and natural ecological resiliency.
The more than 9 million acres of roadless areas within the Tongass’ temperate, old-growth rainforests drive a thriving tourism, recreational and commercial fishing industry.
Committee Democrats have written to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on the issue multiple times:
- On October 11, 2018, to oppose changes to the national roadless rule in Alaska
- On May 10, 2019, to request more information in light of concerns about inadequate tribal consultations
- On July 11, 2019, House and Senate lawmakers sent a bicameral letter expressing concerns with the rulemaking’s artificially expedited timeline at the expense of tribes and other stakeholders
“The Trump administration has turned destructive corporate welfare into a permanent governing philosophy,” Grijalva said today. “Weakening protections for one of the most important ecosystems our planet has left is a colossal mistake, and this Committee has questions about how this decision was made that this administration should prepare to answer. We need to protect places like the Tongass so future generations can enjoy them unspoiled.”
“The administration’s rushed and reckless plan to allow clear-cutting and road-building in huge swaths of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest will cause harm for generations to come,” said Subcommittee Chair Ruben Gallego. “Tongass National Forest is not only a pristine national treasure, the largest intact temperate forest in the world, and a key part of local tourism and recreation economies – it is also one of our most effective tools to mitigate climate change for future generations. That’s why it’s all the more important to pass my bill, the Roadless Area Conservation Act, as soon as possible to codify the Roadless Rule and its protections.”
“We have a responsibility to protect our communities from impacts of climate change, yet the Trump Administration is putting Native Alaskan traditions and families at further risk by removing existing protections that support subsistence use and provide natural climate solutions, which is a violation of their trust responsibility,” said Vice Chair Deb Haaland. “By eliminating roadless protections for national forests in Alaska this Administration is attacking our shared public lands, and future generations will be the ones who pay the price.”
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) recently introduced H.R. 2491, the Roadless Area Conservation Act, which would provide permanent nationwide protections for approximately 58.5 million acres of roadless national forest. Chair Grijalva and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who chairs the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, are original cosponsors.
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