California Congressional Delegation Letter
Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515
December 15, 1999
Chief, USDA Forest Service
201 14th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Dear Chief Dombeck:
We applaud your efforts to protect remaining roadless areas in the national forests and are writing to comment on the October 19, 1999 notice of intent to initiate a policy on managing and protecting these wild areas. The Forest Service proposes a two-part process to protect roadless areas first, by restricting activities in unroaded portions of inventoried areas and second, by establishing national criteria for managing inventoried roadless areas and for determining whether and to what extent protections should be extended to uninventoried roadless areas.
While California's national forests constitute a fifth of the state, they produce almost half the state's runoff water. Healthy national forests are critical to the state's water supply, and roadless areas are critical to healthy forests. The State of California has approximately 4.3 million acres of inventoried roadless areas - over ten percent of the nation's roadless areas. Of those acres, more than half - approximately 2.5 million acres - are subject to road construction and other environmentally destructive activities. We urge you to permanently protect all of these ecologically significant lands from any activity that would degrade their character and value, such as road building, logging, and mining.
Furthermore, we urge you to establish national criteria that would extend these protections to roadless areas of 1,000 acres or more. The value of these areas to regional landscapes in terms of clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities is immeasurable. Moreover, fragmentation, with its effects of erosion sedimentation, and creation of pathways for invasive species, poses an ongoing threat to the health of our forests. These effects are particularly dramatic in the Sierras. Management of these smaller roadless areas should not be left to the discretion of individual forest supervisors or postponed until inventories and analyses are completed. Rather, uninventoried roadless areas of 1,000 acres or more should be given both the highest degree of protection and immediate interim protection until forest plan revisions can provide permanent protection. We strongly encourage a national policy that incorporates these safeguards for these irreplaceable treasures.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this historic proposal and look forward to working with you to preserve California's last remaining wild lands.