Heritage Forests Campaign News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 18, 2001
CONTACT: Le Evans, NET, 202-887-1342 or 202-487-7465 (cell)
Forests In Limbo:
Responding to threats to the health of our national forests, the US Forest Service began the process to set aside 58.5 million acres of our last wild National Forest lands. After decades of study, 600 public meetings, more than 1.6 million public comments, and wide support from Congress the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was created. The Bush administration made several promises to uphold it, but after more than 5 months and 650,000 additional public comments later our forests remain in limbo.
Promises Made and Promises Forgotten
On Earth Day, President George W. Bush made a noble defense of our environment and pledged to protect our national forests.
"Our prosperity as a nation will mean little, if our legacy to future generations is a world of polluted air, toxic waste, and vanished forests."
President George W. Bush, Earth Day Pledge, April 22, 2001
Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and Forest Service Chief Bosworth pledged to "uphold" the roadless rule.
"We're here today to announce the department's decision to uphold the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Through this action, we are reaffirming the Department of Agriculture's commitment to the important challenge of protecting roadless values."
Secretary of Agriculture Veneman, News Conference, May 04, 2001
Attorney General John Aschroft promised to defend the overwhelmingly popular roadless rule to protect National Forests.
"I will, regardless of whether or not I support it as a Senator, defend the rule. And if it is a rule with the force and effect of law, I will defend those cases and I will support and enforce the law. I think that's a responsibility and I think that's what I've promised to do. I can't be result oriented, I have to be law oriented and I think I would disserve the President and the country were I to do otherwise."
Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senate Confirmation Hearing, January 17, 2001
"US Attorney General John Ashcroft might as well have waived a white flag and surrendered. Instead of defending the Clinton administration's rule banning new roads in certain national forest areas, Ashcroft filed a "status report." In plain language, that means while the Bush administration would not rescind the rule outright, it would significantly weaken it."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 17, 2001
The Forest Service circulated draft forest planning regulations that would eliminate or significantly reduce most of the environmental safeguards included in the forest planning process. Particularly, the forest planning regulations would eliminate the priority for ecological sustainability, and give powerful logging companies even more influences over forest planning decisions.
Bill McAllister, Denver Post, June 15, 2001
A "little-noticed" provision of the House energy bill strips local forest supervisors of the authority to prevent drilling. Instead, "these decisions would be handled in Washington by Mark Rey, President Bush's nominee for undersecretary of Agriculture and a former top lobbyist for the timber industry. Representatives of oil companies as well as environmental groups agree that Rey would be less likely than forest supervisors to ban drilling."
Elizabeth Shogren, Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2001
Forest Service Chief Bosworth announces a new directive that gives him more authority over roadless area timber decisions, but it does not prevent road-building or timber sales from moving forward where forest plans have already been completed; like the Tongass National Forest, where a Federal Judge ordered the Forest Service to rework an extremely controversial forest plan earlier this year.
Larisa Epatko, Greenwire, August 27, 2001
Forest Service Chief Bosworth proposes changes to the "categorical exclusions" rules that would now exempt small-scale logging and road-building activities in roadless areas from the usual environmental analysis requirements.
Katherine Pfleger, Associated Press, September 26, 2001
The Justice Department, having failed to file any appeal, is absent from a hearing of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on the future of the roadless rule. Environmental groups argued on behalf of the public who overwhelmingly support roadless protections.
National Forests In Limbo: Whats Next?
November 2001 -- Forest Service Chief Bosworth is expected to issue proposed changes to the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) regulations that govern the local forest planning process. A draft circulated in June indicates that the Forest Service is considering rolling back many of the ecological safeguards built in to the forest planning process.
December 2001 -- The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to render a decision on the expedited appeal of the Lodge preliminary injunction.
January 2002 -- Forest Service Comment Analysis Team is expected to release the final report in the total number of ANPR comments.
February 2002 -- Idaho Federal District Court Judge Lodge is expected to proceed on the roadless rule case following a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
For more information, please contact Le Evans at (202) 887-1342
The Heritage Forests Campaign is an alliance of conservationists, wildlife advocates, clergy, educators, scientists, and other Americans working together to uphold protection of our National Forests. Heritage Forests Campaign's partners include Alaska Rainforest Coalition, American Hiking Society, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, National Environmental Trust, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, US PIRG, and The Wilderness Society.