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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

December 24, 2003


WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration exempted Alaska’s national forests from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule today, despite receiving nearly 250,000 public comments opposing the plan. Today’s announcement comes as the Bush administration is considering weakening roadless protections in the lower-48 states, and a recent court action blocking the public from defending the rule in court.

"The reality of today’s decision is that our grandchildren are being robbed of their natural heritage in order to appease Bush’s friends in the oil, gas, and timber industry," said Robert Vandermark, Co-Director, Heritage Forests Campaign. "With nearly 50 timber sales ready to go in the Tongass National Forest alone, it’s no secret what’s motivating President Bush to strip Alaska’s roadless protections."

In an analysis released last month, the Heritage Forests Campaign found that less than 2,000 public comments of the nearly 250,000 received by the Forest Service supported the administration’s Alaska proposal. Those who spoke out against the proposal include office supply company Staples Inc., recreational retailer REI, members of Congress, Forest Service employees, Alaskans, and Americans from across the country.

The administration announced a court agreement with the state of Alaska in June that would exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, along with its intention to reconsider roadless protections for Alaska’s Chugach National Forest. At the same time, the administration also announced its intention to allow exemptions from the roadless rule in the lower-48 states. In November, the administration filed a court briefing arguing against the public’s right to defend the rule in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the administration’s failure to do so.

"With the Bush administration poised to log America’s largest rainforest, their intentions for America’s remaining pristine forests are clear," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Conservation Advocate, U.S. PIRG. "As with Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, these lands are America’s treasured natural heritage and they must be protected."

Adopted in January 2001 following years of scientific study and hundreds of public hearings across the country, the roadless rule protects 58.5 million acres of America’s last unroaded forests in 39 states, including nine million acres in the Tongass and five million in the Chugach. The Tongass National Forest is home to centuries-old trees providing critical habitat for wolves, grizzly bears, wild salmon, bald eagles and other wildlife that have disappeared from many other parts of the country. To date, the Forest Service has received nearly 2.5 million comments supporting the rule.

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Contact: Tony Iallonardo, NET
(202) 887-8855

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. To learn more, visit: ourforests.org

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