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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

September 15, 2003

Bush Administration Fails To Defend Roadless Rule

Conservationists Step in on Behalf of 2.5 Million Americans in Support of the Rule

WASHINGTON, DC The Heritage Forest Campaign today blasted the Bush administration for failing to appeal a Wyoming Court decision against the roadless rule, despite the overwhelming public support for the rule. This omission comes on the heels of an administration proposal to exempt Alaskaís Tongass and Chugach National Forests from the roadless rule opening up one quarter of our nationís last unroaded national forests to logging and road construction.

"At every turn this administration has sought cover for its intentions to gut the roadless rule, and now it is hiding behind an adverse district court decision, rather than defending the law of the land," said Robert Vandermark, Co-Director of the Heritage Forests Campaign. "By failing to defend the rule in the 10th Circuit, the Bush administration is standing with their friends in the timber industry, rather than the American people."

Last Friday marked the deadline for the administration to appeal to the 10th Circuit a recent Wyoming District Court decision on the rule. In July, Judge Brimmer ruled for the timber industry, in a move that enjoined the rule nationwide, holding it in violation of NEPA and the Wilderness Act. This ruling conflicts with a 9th Circuit Federal Court ruling reversing an injunction placed on the rule by an Idaho court. The administration also failed to defend the rule in the 9th Circuit Federal Court. Conservationists have already filed an appeal of the Wyoming decision.

"The administration is orchestrating a multi-prong attack on our national forests that flies in the face of the overwhelming public support for protecting our last wild forests," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Conservation Advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "They are working to deliver our national forests to the timber industry by simultaneously pushing large scale timber sales in Alaska, failing to defend the roadless rule in key court cases, and planning a proposal to let governors seek exemptions for federal lands that belong to all Americans."

In June, the Bush administration proposed exempting Alaskaís Tongass and Chugach National Forests from the roadless rule. They also announced a forthcoming proposal to allow governors in the lower-48 states to opt out of the rule. A forty-five day public comment period on the Tongass and Chugach exemption closed on September 2nd, with nearly 300,000 Americans, members of Congress and major corporations opposing the administrationís Alaska roadless exemptions.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was adopted in January 2001 following years of scientific study and hundreds of public hearings across the country. To date, the Forest Service has received more than 2.5 million comments on the rule 95% in favor of strong roadless protection. Bipartisan legislation supported by more than 160 members of the U.S. House and Senate has been introduced to codify the roadless rule.

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For additional information, contact Jennifer Coate, at 202-887-8855 (ph) or 202-320-0693 (cell).

The Heritage Forests Campaign is an alliance of conservationists, wildlife advocates, clergy, educators, scientists, and other Americans who are working together to uphold protection of our National Forests.

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