2001 — A Promise on Roadless Protection
- In January 2001, the Clinton administration approved the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a conservation policy that protects 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest land from logging, mining, and drilling. The rule was created as a result of more than 1.6 public million comments in support of strong roadless protection — the most public comments in the history of federal rulemaking.
- At a May 4 news conference Agriculture Secretary Veneman said that the Bush administration pledged to uphold the roadless rule, with only minor changes. "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."
- A second Forest Service public comment period resulted in yet another 700,000 positive comments, bringing the total to 2.2 million public comments in support of the strongest protections for our national forests.
- The Bush Administration named Mark Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist, to oversee the Forest Service, as the USDA Undersecretary of Natural Resources.
- Following Mark Rey’s appointment, the Bush administration, through obscure bureaucratic maneuvers, moved to significantly weaken a number of national forest protections. Just before Christmas, the Administration instituted new directives that eliminate a moratorium on road building and abolish the environmental and public review process in previously protected areas.
- As a result of timber industry lawsuits, a preliminary injunction was placed on the rule in May, preventing its implementation. Despite Attorney General John Ashcroft’s promise to defend the rule, the Bush Administration failed to mount a serious defense in the appeals court.
2002 — Roadless Rule Changes and Timber Sale Plans
- The Forest Service circulated a draft of new National Forest Management Act regulations, which propose the elimination or significant reduction of most environmental safeguards currently included in the forest planning process. The final regulations are expected in March.
- The Forest Service is already moving ahead with timber sales in roadless areas, including Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Recently, a federal court prevented the Forest Service from proceeding with salvage logging in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest, after USDA Undersecretary Mark Rey cut off public comment.
The Challenge AheadToday, the real question is: Will the Bush administration honor its promise to uphold the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and, if so, when? Or, will it continue to undo critical national forest protections through backdoor bureaucratic maneuvers, hide behind the courts, and refuse to provide meaningful national protection for 58.5 million acres of the last undeveloped national forest land through a national rule?
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Contact: Tony Iallonardo, NET
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.