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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

June 9, 2003

Bush Administration Hands America’s Last Wild Forests Over to Timber Industry

New Proposal Guts the Widely Popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration proposed massive changes to the Roadless Area Conservation Rule today that erode national protections for 58.5 million acres of pristine national forests in 39 states, including 9.3 million acres of North America’s only coastal temperate rainforest -- Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

The Roadless Rule was approved in January 2001 following years of scientific study, more than 600 public meetings across the country, and 1.6 million official public comments. While protecting the last one-third of our threatened national forests from most commercial activity, the rule allows new roads to be constructed in order to fight fires, and ensure public health and safety.

"This is a swift slap in the face of the American public," said Robert Vandermark, Co-Director, Heritage Forests Campaign. "The Bush administration is watering down the most popular federal rulemaking in history -- making their disdain for public involvement in land management crystal clear."

Despite, a May 4th pledge by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to uphold the Roadless Rule, today’s announcement will allow individual states to seek additional exemptions from the rule. The administration also announced that as part of an Alaska court settlement, they will propose exempting Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from the rule. One-fourth of all roadless areas are located in Alaska.

"This pattern of ‘sue and settle’ by the administration completely takes the public out of the process and leaves public land management decisions behind bureaucratic closed doors," said Vandermark.

"This is an unbelievably shameless attack on our national forests," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Conservation Advocate, US PIRG. "This proposal suggests that the administration never intended to implement the original rule, and is quite eager to deliver our last wild forests to the timber, oil and gas industry."

From high-altitude aspen wilderness to low-lying grasslands, roadless areas encompass a cross section of pristine national forests, and are the last remaining strongholds for grizzly bears, wolves, elk, salmon, and trout. Every year millions of Americans hike, fish and hunt in our national forests and live off the clean drinking water from the forest headwaters and streams.

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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.

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