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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

July 13, 2004

Administration Abandons Roadless Rule; Leaves Forests Unprotected Against Logging

On July 12, 2004, the Bush administration reneged on its promise to "uphold" the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and protect wilderness areas in our national forests from logging and road-building.

Though the Administration and the Forest Service attempted to portray the rule change as a modification of the Roadless Rule, not a single roadless acre of the National Forests protected under the Roadless Rule will be safe from the timber industry under the new proposal.

Unlike the Roadless Rule, which set aside sixty million acres of our last pristine national forests for protection, the Bush administration's new plan would give governors the option to petition the Forest Service to recommend how they would manage these roadless areas in their states. State governors, however, have neither the staff nor the expertise to manage forests effectively. And there are no guarantees that the Forest Service, which is headed by a former timber industry lobbyist, would approve those petitions.

Though the new rule will be subject to a 60-day comment period, the administration has already received over 2.5 million public comments in support of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and has chosen to ignore them.

Details About the Rule Change:

  • The Forest Service is not modifying the Roadless Area Conservation Rule; it is ending national roadless protection in its entirety. This action will effectively give away the remaining thirty percent of the National Forest lands to the timber industry. The day this new policy goes into effect, not a single acre of the forests preserved under the Roadless Area Conservation Rule will be left protected.
  • Though there are conflicts in the federal courts about the legal standing of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, with some judges ruling against it and some judges ruling in favor of it, the Department of Agriculture is not required by the pending litigation to act on the rule. The new policy is a direct attempt to short-circuit the legal appeals pending in the courts by officially vacating the Roadless Rule administratively.
  • The Administration is using the pending litigation as a smokescreen to renege on their May 4, 2001 public promise to "uphold" the roadless area conservation rule to protect these last remaining wild areas of the National Forests.
  • The substitute policy announced by the administration is entirely unworkable. Few, if any, governors are going to spend their limited resources and political capital asking the Forest Service to protect these remaining wild areas when they know at the end of this new process Mark Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist, will make the final decision on their request as the Under Secretary in charge at USDA.
  • In any case, protecting these public lands within the National Forests is the job of the U.S. Forest Service, not the job of state governors who simply don't have have the staff or expertise to carry out forest planning effectively.
  • Finally, contrary to the way the Bush administration is portraying the substitute policy's intent, governors are not limited to asking the Forest Service to protect these roadless areas. Instead, they are being asked to propose how to manage these areas. This actually allows state governors to propose to increase logging, mining or other development for these areas.

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For additional information, contact Tony Iallonardo, at 202-887-8800.

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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