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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

February 28, 2003

Bush Administration Fails to Protect America’s Largest Old-Growth Rainforest

Decision Puts 115 Roadless Areas in Jeopardy

WASHINGTON – Today, the Bush Administration continued its assault on America’s forests by failing to designate new wilderness areas in the Tongass National Forest – marking the next phase in the Administration’s attempts to gut roadless area protections.

“Despite overwhelming public support for roadless protections and a strong congressional rebuke of an effort to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, the Bush Administration continues to do the bidding of timber companies,” said Robert Vandermark, Co-Director, Heritage Forests Campaign. “Instead of systematically dismantling national forest protections on behalf of the corporate special interests, the Bush Administration should work with Congress and the American people to ensure our wild forests are a lasting legacy.”

After conducting a court-ordered wilderness review of over nine million acres in the Tongass Forest, the Bush Administration recommended in May to designate no new wilderness areas, and put forth a "no-action" preferred alternative for wilderness recommendations in the Tongass Forest. More than 175,000 public comments were collected, the vast majority rejecting the Bush Administration’s decision recommending no additional wilderness. Currently the Bush Administration is pursuing 49 large-scale industrial timber sales in the 115 roadless areas of the Tongass.

"By failing to permanently protect any new wilderness in the Tongass National Forest – the world’s largest coastal temperate rainforest – the Bush Administration is ignoring the will of the American people,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Conservation Advocate, U.S. PIRG. “Through a series of damaging forest actions, the Bush Administration is turning our forests over to timber companies instead of respecting the wishes of the American people.”

In addition to the decision on the Tongass National Forest, the Bush Administration will decide shortly on the future of one of the most significant conservation policies in decades – the Roadless Area Conservation Rule – a policy that protects more than 58 million acres of America's last undeveloped forest lands. To date the Forest Service has received more than 2.2 million comments favoring roadless protection.

To learn more, visit the Alaska Rainforest Campaign at www.akrain.org.

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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 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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