Congress soon will get another chance to vote on a bill that would protect America’s embattled roadless federal forests permanently.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) is planning to reintroduce the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act in the 110th Congress, which got underway earlier this month. He is circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter with bipartisan support to garner cosponsors for the bill.

Previous versions of the bill were bottled up, by congressional opponents, in committee, and never came to a floor vote. But the new post-election congressional alignment should improve the 2007 act's chances. One of the cosponsors of the Inslee bill (H.R. 3563 in theprevious session) was Democratic representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia, the new chair of the powerful Natural Resources Committee.

The Bush administration repealed the original, protective roadless rule on May 2005 and replaced it with a complicated, state-by-state petition process that left the final decision on all roadless areas up to the secretary of agriculture.

In September 2006 a district court judge in San Francisco threw out the Bush repeal and reinstated the original rule.

"Pristine forests are national heirlooms that should belong to all Americans, not special interests," Inslee said about the court's overturning of the Bush repeal. "Thanks to the courts today, they're back in the hands of a grateful people who have an obligation to preserve them for generations to come."

The original Roadless Area Conservation Rule was written during the Clinton administration and went into effect in January 2001. It was the most popular environmental rule ever written, with over 1.6 million public comments on the original rule, 96 percent of them favorable. The rule protected 58.5 million roadless acres of national forest from roadbuilding, logging, drilling, mining, and other development.

Forests Forever has campaigned for a strong roadless rule in one fight or another since before the Clinton rule went into effect.

There are many good reasons to preserve the roadless areas in our national forests. Roadless lands preserve essential watersheds and help ensure an abundant supply of clean drinking water. By keeping large areas of forest undisturbed, we can provide refuges for endangered wildlife and avoid fragmenting habitat. Undisturbed lands are an effective barrier to invasive species– a growing problem nationwide. And roadless areas provide a wide array of recreational opportunities.

The Roadless Area Conservation Act was first introduced in 2003 in the Senate by Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and in the House by Inslee. The original legislation garnered 150 cosponsors.

Though the courts have reinstated it, the original roadless rule is facing more challenges. The State of Wyoming has returned to court with its lawsuit against the rule, which had resulted in a nationwide suspension of the rule in 2005.

And even though the Bush administration’s petition process has been struck down by the courts, the Department of Agriculture is still accepting petitions from state governors who want to change the way roadless areas in their states are managed.

A law enacted by Congress (rather than a rule promulgated by a federal agency) would ensure that roadless protections are not subject to the whims of a hostile executive branch. It would provide needed and long-lasting protection for the last unroaded forests in the country.


The letter Inslee is currently circulating (which you can read at https://www.forestsforever.org/Insleecolleagueletter.pdf ) is signed by Inslee and five other representatives: Mark Kirk (R-IL), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Jim Ramstad (R-MN), and George Miller (D-CA). Our goal is to have 150 original co-sponsors before the bill is introduced.

Ask your congressional representatives to cosponsor Inslee's Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2007.

Call your representative through the Congressional Switchboard, 202/224-3121, and ask him or her to become an original cosponsor of the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2007 today.

Find your representative at: http://www.house.gov/MemStateSearch.html

The deadline for signing on as a cosponsor of the roadless act of 2007 is Feb. 5.

Read Inslee's National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2005 here:


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places