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Roadless Protection Favored by Overwhelming Majority of Americans

National Survey Reveals Americans Favor Protecting Vastly More Land in National Forests

Washington, D.C. (July 27) --- As the Clinton Administration stands poised to decide a new policy for road construction on public lands, a new poll released today reveals that Americans from all regions of the country express overwhelming support for protecting the remaining undeveloped "roadless" areas in U.S. national forests.

Nationwide, 63 percent of those polled believe there is not enough wilderness protected on national forests, versus just six percent who say too much has already been protected.

The poll, conducted by the Mellman Group, Inc., shows that support for permanent protection of national forest roadless areas cuts across political party, gender, and regional lines. The poll was commissioned by the Heritage Forests Campaign, The Wilderness Society, and the National Audubon Society.

"President Clinton has a special opportunity to give the gift of the millennium to Americans of the 21st Century," said Ken Rait, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign. "Like President Theodore Roosevelt at the dawn of the 20th century, President Clinton can leave a legacy of historic proportions by protecting the last untouched national forest roadless areas," he added.

The Clinton Administration will soon decide what direction to take in creating a new policy for road construction and protection of roadless areas. The U.S. Forest Service imposed an 18-month moratorium on new roadbuilding in some roadless areas in February, 1999. The moratorium does not apply to 25 national forests in eight states.

"We hope the Clinton Administration hears, and heeds, the voice of America," William Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. Public opinion on this issue "has never been stronger, clearer, or more direct," he added

Among the key findings of the poll are:

  • 63 percent of Americans favored a proposal to protect all national forest roadless areas 1,000 acres and larger;
  • Voters surveyed overwhelmingly favor protecting vastly more land in national forests than is currently protected;
  • Overall 68 percent of the women supported the proposal, with 64 percent of those identified as Republican women favoring the proposal and 75 percent of those identified as Democratic women favoring the proposal;
  • The Clinton Administration is generally viewed as not overzealous on environmental issues;
  • 75 percent of voters in the poll support a plan that would not exempt any national forests from a roadless protection policy;
  • More than 70 percent of voters favor a ban on oil drilling, logging, and mining in national forest roadless areas.

"There no longer should be any doubt that protecting national forests roadless areas is good policy and good politics," said Dan Beard, senior vice president of the National Audubon Society. "It is crystal clear that the public wants the Clinton Administration to take bold action on this issue," he added.

The Heritage Forests Campaign last month delivered more than 250,000 postcards and email messages to the Clinton Administration from the public urging it to act now to permanently protect some 60-million acres of roadless areas on the national forests. "The news in today's poll is that the American public is simply fed up with actions on its public lands that eliminate intact wild areas," said TWS' Meadows.

"We expect a decision by the Forest Service within weeks on whether it will engage in an open, public process to develop the roadless protection policy promised by President Clinton. A closed, internal process by the agency would be a mistake and an insult to the American people," he added.

The poll was conducted between June 9 and 14 among 800 likely voters. The margin of error for this survey is plus/minus 3.5 percent.

The Heritage Forests Campaign is an alliance of conservationists, educators, scientists, clergy and ordinary Americans who are working together to ensure that our unprotected scenic wilderness forests are permanently protected.

Founded in 1935, the Wilderness Society works to protect America's wilderness and to develop a nationwide network of wild lands through public education, scientific analysis, and advocacy.

With over a million members and supporters in 518 chapters throughout the Americas, the National Audubon Society conserves and restores natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.

Click on the links below to see more detail on a specific chart.

  • Chart 1: Overwhelming Support for Prohibiting Commercial Activities in Currently Roadless Areas
  • Chart 2: Few Westerners Believe We Have Protected Too Much Wilderness
  • Chart 3: Voters Favor Protecting More Land
  • Chart 4: Majority of Westerners Believe 18% Is Too Little Land To Protect
  • Chart 5: Support For Proposal Highest In The Northeast
  • Chart 6: Voters Oppose Road-Building In Currently Roadless Areas
  • Chart 7: Voters Prefer A Proposal Without Regional Exemptions

For more information about the poll results, call the Heritage Forests Campaign at 202-861-2242.
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