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Cleland Calls for Roadless Area Protection for Georgia's National Forests

Senate hearing gives priority to Appalachian region

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator Max Cleland today offered his comments to the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Natural Resources to discuss the importance of roadless wilderness areas in America's National Forests. Roadless areas are defined as 5,000 or more acres of federal land that are free of roads and otherwise substantially undeveloped. While many roadless areas have been officially designated as wilderness by Congress, most roadless areas remain open for development. Senator Cleland encouraged the committee to support an Administration initiative that would protect 40 million acres of national forests from development.

"We in Georgia are blessed to have some of the most beautiful and pristine national forest lands in the country right in our own backyard," said Senator Cleland. "Our national forests provide unique and ever decreasing habitat and biological resources for our state, as well as unmatched opportunities for recreation. We need to take steps to save these delicate lands before we lose them forever. A comprehensive, permanent policy is necessary to protect these beautiful wilderness areas before it is too late."

Roads in wilderness areas can have devastating impacts on water quality and fish habitat by increasing landslides, erosion, and siltation of streams. Roads also fragment forests and degrade or eliminate habitat for species that depend on remote landscapes, such as grizzly bears, wolves, and other large, wide-ranging predators. However, land managers have been reluctant to protect roadless areas, preferring instead to build the necessary access roads to facilitate logging, grazing, mining, and oil and gas development. Roadless area protection is a cornerstone of ecosystem management strategies.

Cindy Kang, Southeast Organizer, Heritage Forests Campaign had this to add, "Senator Cleland has been a leading advocate of forest protection in Georgia and the Southern Appalachian region. We applaud Senator Cleland for recognizing the importance of our nation's last roadless wildlands, and taking the leadership to protect these treasures for future generations."
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