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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

July 15, 2003

Heritage Forests Campaign Blasts Latest Actions to Gut Widely Popular Roadless Rule

WASHINGTON, DC The Heritage Forest Campaign today blasted the Bush administration and the timber industry for new developments undermining the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The administration today proposed exempting America's largest rainforest from the rule, and a Wyoming federal judge has blocked implementation of the rule nationwide. All this despite the overwhelming public support for the rule.

"Ultimately the fate of the roadless rule is not resting in the hands of the federal courts, rather it is in the hands of the Bush administration," said Robert Vandermark, Co-Director of the Heritage Forest Campaign. "The actions the Bush administration is taking with Alaska's Tongass National Forest is proof that they are not living up to their public statements to maintain roadless protections for our national forests."

Today's two key developments:

  • In today's Federal Register, the administration officially cleared the way for 50 large-scale timber sales currently being planned with the timber industry in roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest. First announced on June 9, the administration made a court agreement with the state of Alaska that exempts the Tongass from the roadless rule. They also announced their intention to reconsider roadless protections for Alaska's Chugach National Forest, and a proposal to allow governors in all other states to opt out of the rule. A 30-day public comment period on taking the Tongass out of the rule begins today.

  • Last night, Judge Brimmer of the U.S. District Court in Wyoming ruled for the timber industry, in a move that enjoins the rule nationwide, holding it in violation of NEPA and the Wilderness Act. This conflicts with a recent 9th Circuit Court ruling reversing an injunction placed on the rule by an Idaho court. Conservationist defendants in the Wyoming case will be appealing immediately to the 10th circuit court. They are optimistic that the 10th circuit court will reverse the Wyoming decision, just as the 9th Circuit Court did the Idaho case.

"The timber industry is getting what they paid for," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Conservation Advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "Just as President Bush is frantically padding his campaign coffers for 2004, the timber industry is getting our national forests."

"Our national forests are a part of America's heritage," said Sittenfeld. "But thanks to the Bush administration the places where Americans hike, hunt, and fish are on track to be destroyed. Americans value our last wild places, and it is time for the Bush administration to respect the public interest instead of continuing to cater to the timber industry."

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was adopted in January 2001 following years of scientific study and hundreds of public hearings across the country. To date, the Forest Services has received more than 2.2 million comments on the rule 95% in favor of strong roadless protection. Bipartisan legislation supported by more than 160 members of the U.S. House and Senate has been introduced to codify the roadless rule.

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For more information on the Timber Industry's campaign contributions to the Bush administration: https://ourforests.org/fact/money.html or https://ourforests.org/fact/lobby_breakdown.pdf.

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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