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Senate Letter to Dombeck

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

November 24, 1999

Mr. Michael P. Dombeck
U.S. Forest Service
Department of Agriculture
4th Floor, Yates Building
201 14th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Mike:

Recently, President Clinton directed the Forest Service to begin a process to prohibit road construction in our nation's roadless areas. We write today to express support for that directive. But we also write to ask you to work with us and the American people to make sure that we continue to balance the whole spectrum of uses on our national forests.

Our national forests are used by many people for many different purposes. In many communities, local citizens rely on the national forests for their economic livelihood in jobs related to resource extraction or recreation. Millions of other Americans turn to our national forests purely to enjoy the great out-of-doors. As both the level of use and the types of uses on our national forests expand, the Forest Service must rise to the challenge of adequately balancing each of these competing needs.

We support the roadless directive because it can help us achieve this balance. Roadless lands are home to elk, deer and other wildlife that sustain our states' proud hunting tradition. Roadless lands contain clean, clear-flowing streams that give rise to our blue ribbon trout fisheries, and provide invaluable habitat for threatened and endangered species. And these areas provide the solitude that people on foot and on horse-back alike turn to for escape from their crowded lives. Given these important uses of roadless lands, we believe it prudent to keep these areas roadless so that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy these areas, just as we do today.

But roadless lands are only part of the picture. Ninety-five percent of all timber is harvested in areas that are already roaded. And the vast majority of all motorized recreation occurs in areas outside of roadless areas. As you move forward with the roadless initiative, we ask that you develop a comprehensive and coherent forest policy that more broadly considers competing needs and looks at the entire forest to create room for each of these uses.

Specifically, we ask that you work with us to expedite the types of small timber sales recently halted by injunction in the 'Heartwood' case, restore stable funding to timber-dependent communities, and improve relations between rural communities and their Forest Service neighbors. There is room on our national forests for many public uses. We ask that you meet with us within 30 days of the start of the next Congressional session to outline for us the specific actions that you will take to maintain balance on our national forests, as you proceed with the President's roadless directive.

Finally, never forget, as you move forward, that these are public lands. As such, the public has an absolute right to help decide how these lands should be managed. We appreciate the lengths to which the Forest Service is going to include the public in review of the roadless directive. In the end, the success of your work will depend in large part on the degree to which your decisions reflect the desires of the public and the principals of sound, long-term, resource management.

We applaud your efforts to protect America's roadless lands, and look forward to working with you and the public as we evaluate this proposal.


Max Baucus
U.S. Senator

Ron Wyden
U.S. Senator

Patty Murray
U.S. Senator

Tom Daschle
U.S. Senator

Tim Johnson
U.S. Senator
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