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Protecting America's National Forests, a report by the Heritage Forests Campaign


Public Support

The Most Popular Federal Policy in US History

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was enacted following two decades of broad public debate and three years of official review and public participation. The Forest Service held over 600 public meetings and hearings on each National Forest and in each Forest Service region and received a record-breaking 1.6 million official comments – five times more than any other federal rulemaking process in history. More than 95% of these comments supported the strongest possible protection for all of our nation’s remaining roadless areas.

Comments Supporting U.S. Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation Policy
Click here for a larger image of comments from around the country The map to the right illustrates the broad geographic support for protecting our last wild forests. Comments were submitted from all 50 states, with the vast majority in support of the roadless rule. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Never before have the American people so actively participated in helping to decide how their public lands should be managed."

For state by state information on comments collected click here.

Opinion Polls

Over the past seven years no fewer than 18 separate opinion polls have shown strong public support for national forest conservation.

In April 2001, The Mellman Group wrote, “There is widespread and overwhelming support for protecting wild areas in national forests from logging, mining, and drilling for oil and gas. A strong majority of voters (67%) favor the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, with 49% saying they favor this policy strongly (19% oppose). Support for this ruling cuts across partisan and regional lines.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Democrats, 66% of independents and even 58% of Republicans support protecting these areas. Similarly support is strong in all regions of the country. Seventy-one percent (71%) of people from the Northeast, 68% of Midwesterners, 65% of Southerners and 64% of those in the West favor the rule to protect pristine national forest lands.” These results are mirrored by a number of earlier polls conducted by Republican and Democratic pollsters and a variety of interest groups throughout the country. In March 2000, for example, a series of 11 statewide polls, conducted by seven different polling firms, found strong public support for protecting the remaining wild areas of national forests:

State Pollster Support Oppose
California Fairbanks, Masslin & Maulin 72% 22%
Colorado Ridder/Braden 75% 20%
Idaho Ridder/Braden 57% 38%
Michigan The Mellman Group 69% 23%
Montana The Feldman Group 76% 21%
Minnesota Fairbanks, Masslin & Maulin 53% 41%
New Mexico Polling and Research 71% 20%
Oregon Ridder/Braden 67% 27%
Tennessee Mason-Dixon Research 72% 12%
Washington Ridder/Braden 72% 20%
Wisconsin Chamberlain Research Consultants 83% 12%

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance conducted a poll of licensed U.S. hunters and anglers concerning their knowledge and beliefs about forest management and the value of wild areas. Included in their findings were that:

  • 84% of hunters supported (55% strongly and 29% moderately) efforts by sportsmen to keep the remaining roadless areas in National Forests roadless.
  • 86% of anglers supported (48% strongly and 38% moderately) efforts by sportsmen to keep the remaining roadless areas in National Forests roadless.

In December 1999 and January 2000 pollster Linda Divall surveryed 1,000 registered voters and found:

  • 76% supported the roadless areas protection proposal
  • A majority in each region felt that the U.S. does not have enough permanently protected land in our national forests.
  • Protections for roadless areas has broad support across political parties. 62% of Republicans, 86% of Democrats, and 78% of Independents supported the roadless protection plan.

Editorials

Over the last three years, more than 300 newspapers have made their support known through editorials.

"Killing [the rule] would represent a big victory not only for the timber companies but also for the oil and gas industries. Although the roadless areas contain less than 1 percent of the nation's oil and gas resources, the energy companies have long had the forests in their sights."
The New York Times, April 8, 2001

"If Mr. Bush weakens [the rule] he will be making a mistake. The rules drew a line and sent a message: Harvest and mine in areas already open, and save the remaining wild places for their own sake and for the future. If Mr. Bush erases that line or blurs it, he'll be sending a message too, one that will leave the country poorer in the long run."
The Washington Post, May 2, 2001

"[The rule] ... preserving 60 million acres of roadless national forest from commercial exploitation is a welcome, overdue act. These forests are for the use and enjoyment for all the people. They are no longer the province of the resource extractors and exploiters who have had their way far too long at the public's expense."
The Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2001

“Roadless policies were not an off-the-cuff remark or idle promise. They were carefully worked out, broadly supported, and should not be evaded.”
The Seattle Times, March 21, 2001

"Even with the conservation rule, more than half of national forests remain open to logging, mining and drilling. The roadless initiative merely restored balance by preserving unspoiled areas. It should stand as is."
The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 2001

"Protecting these areas from roads and logging still leaves two-thirds of the national forests accessible via an extensive, albeit inadequately maintained network of roads. The bulk of the national forests remain open for logging. . . . The timber industry doesn't-or shouldn't, anyway-need to constantly pioneer new logging areas. This policy is economically, environmentally and socially sound ..."
The Missoulian (MT), May 9, 2001

"The Bush Administration shouldn't discard science in the management for our national forests. Yet President Bush seems ready to return to the days when the U.S. Forest Service treated our wonderful woodlands like tree farms by stalling a progressive ... order that placed priority on ecological balance."
The Denver Post, May 5, 2001

“Since 1992, subsidized industrial logging activities have cost the taxpayers $550 million in the Tongass alone. There is no sense in allowing this to continue, destroying more of the forests and wildlife habitat. Congress should make sure the “roadless rule” stands.
Kansas City Star, July 15, 2002

“National forests belong to all Americans, and at least some should be preserved for less destructive uses. The president says he seeks balance on environmental issues. Balance is precisely what the roadless rule achieves.”
Tampa Tribune, December 22, 2002

“In upholding a Clinton administration ban on road building in parts of national forests, a federal appeals court this month not only took an important step toward protecting a national resource, but it also affirmed the principle of public participation in a vital national debate.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 25, 2002


Photos of Forests