Heritage Forests Campaign Once They're Gone, They're Gone Forever

WASHINGTON – There are clear lines between the public and corporate special interests in the battle over the protection of 58.5 million acres of wild national forest land, according to a report released by the Heritage Forests Campaign. The report follows a Forest Service analysis of comments submitted in response to the Bush administration’s plan to change the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

“The public has once again told the Forest Service that it overwhelmingly supports protecting our last wild national forest lands,” said Jane Danowitz, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign. “The real question this time is whether the Bush administration will listen to its corporate special interest friends instead.”

The Forest Service report analyzed comments submitted by the public last fall in response to the Bush administration’s announcement that it intended to make changes to the wildly popular roadless rule. According to the report, completed on May 31, 2002, but not released until last night, the Forest Service received 726,440 comments from the public, and that 97 percent of these comments favored implementing the Roadless Area Conservation Rule without Bush administration changes.

The Heritage Forests Campaign report, completed following an inspection of those same comments, concludes that the debate over the future of the roadless has clear lines between powerful corporate special interests and the public. On one side, members of Congress, scientists, religious leaders, recreationalists, conservationists, environmentalists and the public favor protecting roadless areas from commercial logging and road building. On the other side, the timber, mining, forest products, and helicopter industries along with off-road vehicle advocates and conservative politicians oppose roadless protection.

Just six months after taking office, the Bush Administration, which had placed the implementation of the rule on hold, began a new rulemaking process and called for another round of public comments.

Following months of frustration over the Bush administration’s foot-dragging, a bipartisan group of 175 members of Congress introduced the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act, which would codify the rule, on June 5, 2002.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was signed into law on January 11, 2001 after the most exhaustive federal rulemaking in history. After more than six hundred public meetings and a record-breaking 1.6 million public comments, the Forest Service announced the policy to protect the nation’s last wild national forests from most road building and commercial logging.

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To view the Forest Service Comment Report, visit www.roadless.fs.fed.us

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

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.

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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

June 27, 2002

Dueling Reports Reveal Public Support for National Forest Protection... But will Bush Listen?

USFS, HFC Reports Show Overwhelming Public Support, Despite Corporate Opposition

Photos of Forests