loopholes and exemptions: losing our heritage forests
Coronado National Forest
The largest unprotected national forest roadless area in Arizona is located on Mt. Graham. Home to the endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel, threatened Mexican spotted owl and countless other imperiled species like the apache goshawk and the chiricahua duck, this biological treasure also contains the southern most spruce-fir forest on the continent. At this time, there are attempts to construct a road and powerline through the area that would permanently chop 27,000 acres off this 138,000 acre area. Mt. Graham is proposed as a wilderness area in the current Arizona Wilderness Bill and the powerline and road would severely compromise its ecological integrity.
Another major problem on the Coronado is ongoing road construction by the Border Patrol. In a three month period in the fall of 1998, more than 100 miles of new roads were created, many in existing roadless areas. These roads are being created without regard to, or compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, or the Clean Air Act.
Sequioa National Forest
Off-road Vehicle Routes
The Sequoia National Forest, in the southern Sierra Nevada, is one of the most botanically diverse forests in all of California. A quarter of the state's plants can be found here, and the Sequoia is home to many groves of ancient giant Sequoia trees, some aged more than 3,000 years old.
A mere month and a half before Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck finalized the policy prohibiting road construction in certain roadless areas, the Sequoia National Forest released a "trail plan" that calls for the construction of 27 miles of new off-road vehicle routes into roadless areas in the Sequoia.
The 43,700-acre Chico Roadless Area will be carved up by three miles of new off-road vehicle routes. The Oat Mountain Roadless Area is scheduled for seven miles of new routes. Routes are also planned for the Rincon, Staff, Cannell, and Dennison Peak Roadless Areas as well. So many new routes are planned for the Staff Roadless Area, that the Forest Service is proposing to open over 5,000 acres of the area that was previously closed to motorized vehicles.
The road construction moratorium may do little to protect roadless areas in Colorado because national forest supervisors are simply rearranging their logging schedules. Roadless area timber sales scheduled for FY 1999 and FY 2000 have been placed on the schedule for FY 2000 and FY 2001. Thus some National Forests are planning to unleash a swell of road construction and logging within roadless areas once the moratorium expires.
White River National Forest
Vail Category III Ski Area Expansion
Approximately 6 million board feet of timber from roughly 600 acres will be logged (mostly clearcut) by the end of summer 1999 in the Elk Roadless Area in White River National Forest. Over one mile of new road construction took place as of October 1998 although most of the construction will occur in the summer of 1999. A total of 12.2 miles of roads and ski-ways will be built. This expansion among other things involves destruction of lynx habitat, old-growth spruce fir logging, and habitat fragmentation.
Boise National Forest
Deadwood River Timber Sale
In the Deadwood River Roadless Area near Lowman Idaho, the Forest Service is considering a management alternative that would cut about 15 million board feet by helicopter, develop about 20,000 acres, and split the 50,000 acre roadless area into 4-5 fragments, while costing taxpayers $1.2 million. Currently, the decision to pursue this alternative is on hold until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviews the impact on bull trout habitat.
Paradise Timber Sale
In Trinity Mountain Roadless Area near Featherville, Idaho, 100 percent roadless area logging was planned in late 1997 before the proposal for a road moratorium was announced. The preferred alternative included three one mile spur roads built inside the roadless areas. After the moratorium was first announced, the Forest Service selected the alternative with no new road construction but allowed for logging with helicopters inside the roadless area. Currently, there are no bidders for the helicopter logging contract because the industry feels it is too expensive for the volume that would be acquired. Attempts are underway to repackage the sale to meet industry needs.
Silver Creek Timber Sale
About two-thirds of the proposed Silver Creek Timber Sale is in Peace Rock Roadless Area. The Forest Service is currently considering several different alternatives, some of which would log and construct roads in roadless areas. One alternative - Alternative D - would log heavily in the roadless area and cost the taxpayers $1 million. Alternative C, which would make money, would require minimal road construction and allow no logging in the roadless area, but would include hands-on treatment such as prescribed burning.
Rather than choosing the money making, no-roadless intrusion alternative that meets the project objectives, the Ranger District is currently re-examining Alternative D to make it more economical, eliminating a few helicopter units in roadless areas and modifying units in both roadless and non-roadless areas to maximize the volume. The intent here appears to be to maximize volume without regard to cost or forest protection.
Squaw Pole Timber Sale
Last year it was discovered that three sections of road inside the Snowbank Roadless Area were to be included in road construction accompanying the Squaw Pole Timber Sale, despite the fact that the Forest Service had previously claimed that the area to be roaded and logged was entirely outside the roadless area boundary. The logging units inside the roadless boundary and the illegal roads were pulled after a lawsuit was filed to stop the logging activity. Now, the Forest Service claims that since the roads were built before the moratorium went into effect and since the project is under contract, the project is excluded from the moratorium.
Payette National Forest
French Creek Roadless Area
In French Creek Roadless Area and proposed Wilderness near McCall, Idaho, a logging project at the edge of a roadless area miscalculated the number of units inside the roadless boundary because of faulty maps. The project was withdrawn after the appeal disclosed the accurate boundary. Now, however, a new proposal from the Forest Service is expected to include the logging units inside the roadless area.
The logging project area is approximately 2,000 acres. Of this, 278 acres will be logged; 149 of those in the roadless area. Three recreation trails will be damaged by the project. The roadless area includes Brown Creek, which is a tributary of the Little Salmon River. Both Brown Creek and the Little Salmon River are spawning and rearing habitat for endangered chinook salmon and steelhead trout, as well as home to a resident population of bull trout. The negative impact on the water quality in this area will jeopardize the fish habitat.
Ottawa National Forest
Old M-64 Hardwoods Timber Sale
The Trap Hills Roadless Area in Michigan's Ottawa National Forest is threatened by the Old M-64 Hardwoods Timber Sale. This roadless area and the surrounding wildlands provide habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species including peregrine falcons, red-shouldered hawks, northern goshawk, and the Canada lynx.
The timber sale threatens the largest unprotected old-growth stand left in the Ottawa National Forest. Any continued logging and road building would compromise the ecosystem and destroy this essential wildlife habitat.
Rolling Thunder Timber Sale
The Rolling Thunder Timber Sale is in a nearly roadless wilderness area separated by one road from the federally protected Sylvania Wilderness Area. Nearly all "roads" in this tract are actually 70+ year-old logging trails that are not graded, graveled, or bulldozed, and have reverted back to forest.
The Sylvania Wilderness Area contains one of the largest tracts of virgin forest - more than 15,000 acres - left in the upper Midwest. The Forest Service plans to log 1,050 acres adjacent to the Sylvania Wilderness with all of the planned clearcuts bordering wetlands. Both Rolling Thunder and Sylvania are part of a massive wetlands complex that forms the headwaters of the Wisconsin River, and many other rivers flowing into Lakes Michigan and Superior.
This timber sale will also impact recreational users. There are 10 miles of ski trails located in the area slated to be logged. At least one outfitter uses this area commercially for a cross-country ski business. As many as 5,000 skiers use the trails in the area adjacent to the wilderness each year.
Off-Road Vehicle Use
Although logging, mining, oil and gas extraction, and road construction pose serious threats to roadless lands in Montana, the most comprehensive and fastest growing threat to undeveloped public land is motorized recreation. Thus, while the recently announced Forest Service moratorium and an attendant process to determine a long-term road policy for roadless lands may influence the extent and impacts of "traditional" activities which harm roadless lands, those steps do nothing to address a formidable threat to roadless lands in Montana that does not depend on the presence of roads: off-road vehicles.
Because Montana is one of two states (Idaho is the other) in the West where statewide wilderness bills have not been passed, most of the state's national forest roadless lands are not designated wilderness and are therefore vulnerable to motorized recreation. Several of the unprotected tracts constitute some of the largest and healthiest forest ecosystems remaining in the lower 48 states.
Following are some examples of roadless lands in Montana that are threatened by off-road vehicles and that will not benefit from either the current road moratorium or any transportation policy that is anchored in the traditional concepts of roads and road construction.
In the Gallatin National Forest, the roadless areas that form the wild northern shoulder of the Yellowstone Park ecosystem are increasingly utilized by off-road vehicles, and motorized interests are working hard to finance and build (with public funds) a circuit of motorized routes that would intensify commercial recreation in the forest and fragment prime grizzly bear habitat.In the Flathead National Forest, snowmobile use is growing in several roadless areas proposed by conservationists for wilderness designation. Threatened roadless areas include the west face of the Swan Range, important grizzly bear habitat, and Thompson-Seton and Tuchuck in the Whitefish Range, adjacent to Glacier National Park.There are seven Wilderness Study Areas in Montana that were established by an act of Congress in 1977, in which the Forest Service was mandated "to maintain their presently existing wilderness character and potential for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System." The management of these Wilderness Study Areas, which collectively total 663,000 acres and include several of Montana's largest and most biologically important wild landscapes, provides a stunning example of why the current road moratorium/road policy initiative of the Forest Service does not adequately protect roadless lands. Although the Forest Service has prohibited road construction in the Wilderness Study Areas, it has allowed and actively promoted off-road vehicle use in them, a negligence that, in addition to violating a clear legal mandate, has established and fostered a strong anti-wilderness constituency for several of the areas.
Malheur National Forest
Greenhorn Mountains and Jump-Off-Joe Roadless Areas
The Greenhorn Mountains and Jump-Off-Joe Roadless Areas (approximately 50,000 acres) are in the Malheur National Forest. This is a spectacular eastside area of high and low elevation old growth forest, rushing streams and open meadows.
These roadless lands provide critical habitat for bull trout and the remaining wild runs of chinook salmon and summer steelhead trout in the Middle Fork John Day River. This fish habitat is severely threatened by timber sales which have begun logging and plan to eventually log 50 million board feet, including significant amounts of old growth trees. 8,000 acres of roadless lands will be impacted and fragmented by logging at great peril to anadromous fisheries. Over 2,000 acres of the land to be logged is within roadless areas. Also, the 100 miles of road reconstruction and 10 miles of new road constructions pose sediment problems for streams.
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
Elkhorn Mountains Roadless Area
The Forest Service plans to log in part of the 70,000 acre Elkhorn Mountains Roadless Area. The area to be logged encompasses the Baker City Municipal Watershed, old growth ponderosa pine and fir forest, bull trout watersheds and important big game habitat. It also forms the southern wildlife corridor between extensive roadless lands and other ranges in the Blue Mountains.
The Forest Service approved a plan to log in the Baker City Watershed using a service contract. It will set a precedent for logging inside of a municipal watershed roadless area for the purpose of "reducing fire hazard". About a mile of new road will be constructed. Helicopter and ground based logging equipment will be used inside the roadless portion of the project. The helicopter and ground based logging would take place inside the water producing portion of the watershed area and above two water intakes.
This is a project that did not sell for several years because it was not deemed profitable by the timber industry. The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest sought and received special "pilot project" funding from the Washington office of the Forest Service. If this project is implemented it will create a dangerous exception to any ban on roadless area entry. It will allow the Forest Service to experiment with unproven theories about thinning for fire hazard reduction in the worst possible place - a municipal watershed. It will build a high standard road into the watershed, and it will make future logging projects much more viable and increase the risk of water contamination as a result of greater public access.
Allegheny National Forest
Road Construction and Logging
The 513,000-acre Allegheny National Forest, located in Northwestern Pennsylvania, is one of the top recreation areas in the eastern United States. It is within one day's drive of one-third of the U.S. population, and is home to threatened and endangered species such as the bald eagle and Indiana bat.
The Allegheny - Pennsylvania's only national forest - is also the most heavily-cut national forest in the Forest Service's Eastern Region and has one of the highest road densities of any national forest in the country. It is already 95% accessible by roads, with nearly 1.5 miles of road for every acre of forest.
In 1999, the Forest Service plans to approve cuts on 17,669 acres of forest (including the 8,206-acre East Side Project), as well as to spray 7,442 acres with toxic herbicides, and build or rebuild 104.6 miles of logging roads. The majority of the cutting that is done in the Allegheny is in the form of clearcutting.
By attributing the forest's decline to natural causes, the Forest Service has been able to declare a state of catastrophe allowing them to bypass state and federal laws on logging. The Forest Service has labeled their proposal as the East Side Project, a plan that allows unlimited acres of clearcutting to be done in an area when the normal limit would be 40 acres.
On April 1, 1999, forestry officials, under heavy pressure from local environmental groups, temporarily halted logging in Allegheny National Forest in order to develop a strategy to protect the Indiana bat, which has been an endangered species since 1967. The Indiana bat hibernates over the winter in caves and mine shafts, but requires dead and dying trees to roost in the summer. Last summer researchers documented occurrences of the endangered bat at three locations in Allegheny National Forest. The logging ban temporarily covers commercial logging, firewood permits, special use permits, and roadside electric line clearing.
There are four other endangered species living in Allegheny National Forest that the Fish and Wildlife Service are currently investigating. These species include: two varieties of mussels, the northern riffle shell and the club shell; bald eagles; and a species of flower called the small whorled, a type of a begonia.
Cherokee National Forest
Slide Hollow Roadless Area
The Forest Service is considering a management alternative that would log 191 acres and build 0.8 mile of new road through the Slide Hollow Roadless Area in the Watauga Ranger District, in Carter County, Tennessee. The plan also calls for using 1.35 miles of old logging roads as temporary roads. The forest is situated between Whiteoak Ridge and Slide Hollow and is a mosaic of cove hardwood, upland hardwood, and pine trees. The project would log within the vicinity of the Appalachian Trail, and a major stream - the Elk River - would be seriously impacted. The area, which has unstable soils, got the name Slide Hollow following the mud slides that occurred there early this century. This project is temporarily on hold because of the moratorium, but it has not been cancelled.
Flint Mill Roadless Area Holston Mountain is a thirty mile long ridge that dominates the eastern skyline of northeast Tennessee's heavily populated Holston Valley. The mountain is part of the Cherokee National Forest and has been extensively roaded and logged. The exception is the 9,511 acre Flint Mill Roadless Area. Flint Mill, which has been supported for wilderness status by conservation groups for years, has a multitude of biological riches and scenic attractions. It contains 100 acres of old growth forest, with most of the remainder of the area between 80 and 100 years of age. Flint Mill contains many scenic overlooks, mountain streams, waterfalls, and hiking trails, including 7 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
In 1997 the Forest Service proposed over 100 acres of clear-cut logging inside the roadless area. Local conservationists protested the sale, but they were not successful. Once the moratorium was proposed, however, the Forest Service was forced to alter the sale to exclude the roadless portions. The current plan calls for logging right up to the roadless area boundary.
Dixie National Forest
Jacobs/Swale Vegetation Management Project
The Jacobs/Swale Project as originally approved in 1995 proposed construction and reconstruction of nearly 29 miles of roads on Boulder Mountain. Boulder Mountain is a unique and primitive area covered with hundreds of lakes and streams and home to the largest contiguous forest at an elevation of 11,000 feet in the west. The Jacobs/Swale project calls for the logging of about 20 million board feet of timber, much of which is considered old growth. While this project has been put on hold during the moratorium, Ron Wilson, the acting Forest Supervisor of the Dixie National Forest, has given indications that once the moratorium has ended, the original approved project, including logging in the roadless portions, will go forth. Forest Service spokesperson Fran Reynolds, who was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, said that the project may be dead for now, but "it could be revitalized in another form later this year."
Ashley National Forest
Trout Slope East Timber Project
The Trout Slope East Timber Project on the Ashley National Forest proposes the construction of 18 miles of temporary roads and the reopening of 26 miles of old timber roads. 24 million board feet of timber would be cut under the guise of "forest health" as a result of a beetle epidemic 20 years ago. The project would enter areas classified as roadless.
Green Mountain National Forest
The 5,561 acre Lamb Brook wildland on the Green Mountain National Forest exemplifies the loopholes that must be plugged in the current moratorium. Lamb Brook is a large, rare, relatively non-roaded, undisturbed and extraordinarily special place that remains under siege by the Forest Service road-building and logging programs. Even though Vermont-based Forest Watch and a handful of other organizations sued in court last year to block the agency from building a 1.5 mile timber access road into the heart of the area, the Forest Service remains committed to destroying the area's wild, roadless qualities. The agency has announced that it is preparing a new and "improved" road-building proposal to access the area for logging.
A large ring of mountains surrounds the core of the Lamb Brook area and completely insulates bears, other deepwoods wildlife species, and backcountry hikers from the sights and sounds of highways, houses and other developments. When in this basin, one experiences a sense of wildness and solitude that is exceedingly rare in southern New England, and essentially non-existent on private land.
Lamb Brook was not originally considered a Forest Service inventoried roadless area because: (1) When it was originally studied in 1980, the area contained less than the 5,000 acres-the minimum size for inclusion in the agency's official inventory. Since then, additional land has been acquired bringing the area up to its current size; and (2) The Forest Service's sliding-scale definition of roads treated Lamb Brook's old, overgrown roadways as functioning "roads" when dismissing it as a roadless area, but treated them as "trails" when side-stepping a court-ordered injunction against road improvements in the area.
Jefferson National Forest
Pending Forest Service projects in Virginia's roadless areas include:
Timber Sale and .7 mile of road in Mottesheard Roadless AreaTimber Sale in North Mountain Roadless AreaTimber Sale in the Dolly Ann Roadless Area with 1.6 miles of road reconstruction.
These are "pending" proposals in Virginia roadless areas that are covered by the road-building moratorium. These projects should be on hold until the end of the moratorium. Forest Service officials in Virginia, however, have stated that, for at least one of these projects, it is going forward with proposed activities outside roadless areas while the moratorium is in effect and will complete action within the roadless areas once the moratorium is lifted.
Colville National Forest
Eagle Rock Timber Sale
Approximately 1,000 acres of roadless area in Colville National Forest will be affected by the Eagle Rock Timber Sale. There are plans to log 6.5 million board feet and construct four miles of new road. The 13 Mile Basin non-roaded area contains the 13 mile hiking trail and connects with the Kettle Crest National Recreation Trail. This is an area that is receiving 25% more visitor use every year.
Fritz Demo 1 Project
The Fritz Demo 1 in Colville National Forest is part of the Crop Research Program, which has $500,000 to study the impacts of logging on water quality and soils. This "experiment" will log in 186 acres at the edge of the Bald Snow Roadless Area and build a short section of road.
This study was intended to examine the impacts of logging small-diameter lodgepole pine forests. The Forest Service has identified suitable stands at low elevation which are not in roadless areas. The stands to be logged, however, are in a high-elevation roadless area within sight of the Kettle Crest National Recreation Trail. This area is home to wildlife, such as lynx and gray wolf. Also, the project has built .4 mile of new road, at a cost of approximately $40,000.
Vulcan Mountain Timber Sale
The Vulcan Mountain Timber Sale in the Colville National Forest provides for helicopter logging in 358 acres of roadless area in northern Ferry County, Washington. Some of the area in the sale is prime old growth. The Forest Service is not going to log anything over 21 inches in diameter but they will leave stumps, thus destroying the roadless character.
Bridger Teton National Forest
Oil and Gas Leasing
Forest Service officials are currently analyzing 340,000 acres of the Bridger Teton National Forest for oil and gas leasing. Of that, 277,340 acres are roadless and will remain that way during the moratorium. But as soon as the moratorium is lifted, exploration will continue, according to the Supervisor of the Bridger Teton National Forest. In fact, in spite of the moratorium, the Forest Service is currently completing an environmental impact statement for leasing within the roadless areas.
Medicine Bow National Forest
Cold Springs Timber Sale
The Medicine Bow National Forest is proposing the Cold Springs Timber Sale that would involve significant clearcutting in the Buffalo Peak and Deer Creek Roadless Areas, which are roughly 35 miles southeast of Casper. The area is southwest of the town of Douglas, Wyoming in the Laramie Mountains. According to the Forest Service Draft Environmental Impact Statement, "the proposed roads and/or timber harvest... would decrease the size of the Buffalo Peak and/or Deer Creek Roadless Areas."
The Cold Springs Timber Sale will log 5.4 million board feet within roadless areas and construct or reconstruct 37 miles of roads outside of the roadless area. The area to be cut is 2,317 acres (712 acres clearcut) and the area to be cut within the roadless area is 1,056 acres. In order to comply with the moratorium, the Forest Service will use access roads outside of the roadless area in order to clearcut large chunks inside of the roadless area.
The Forest Service proposed this sale despite the fact that the Medicine Bow National Forest Plan Environmental Impact Statement showed these roadless areas, scoring high public benefits, were more valuable to preserve as wildlands than to manage for timber. Virtually the entire timber sale would take place on soils at risk for erosion. Several of the alternatives being considered would attempt to circumvent the road-building moratorium by entering the roadless area using a "travelway" made by downing trees to drive upon.
Tie Camp Timber Sale
Located in the already heavily-cut Wyoming-Colorado border area, the Tie Camp Timber Sale would log one of the last remaining forested links between the Medicine Bow (WY) and Routt (CO) National Forests. The recently-revised plan will reduce the volume of the timber sale from over 8 million board feet to less than 5 million. 147 acres will be clearcut. While many cutting units within the inventoried Coon Creek roadless boundary recently were dropped because of the road-construction moratorium, cutting will still take place in the inventoried as well as non-inventoried roadless areas. The Tie Camp Timber Sale will also involve the construction of six miles of new roads. Only 7% of the Medicine Bow National Forest is protected as Wilderness.