WASHINGTONPresident Clinton today took a giant step toward cementing a conservation legacy on a par with that of Teddy Roosevelt by launching a plan to permanently protect tens of millions of acres of wild, "roadless" areas in Americas National Forests from environmentally destructive activities.
"This is truly a monumental moment in conservation and American history," said Ken Rait, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign. "President Clinton should be thanked by us all today for his vision to create a natural legacy for future generations of Americans."
The Heritage Forests Campaign, launched just a year ago, has been urging the Clinton Administration to adopt a forest policy "yardstick" that would:
- apply to all National Forests;
- protect National Forest roadless areas not just from new roads, but also from other destructive activities that could occur even in the absence of roads, such as helicopter logging;
- be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement, a process that will effectively withstand any effort that might be made to overturn the roadless policy in future administrations;
- protect all National Forest areas larger than 1,000 acres; and
- rely on the most current and best sciencenot politicsto underpin the final policy.
These 5 key yardstick componentsno exemptions, no logging or mining, permanence, 1,000 acres or more, and sound science--would prevent destruction of 60 million acres of public lands in some 38 states.
"For this policy to be a homerun it must protect roadless areas in all National Forests from logging, mining, roadbuilding and other damaging activities," said Rait. "These roadless areas not only are the last best places for wildlife, but also are a source of clean drinking water for millions of Americans in more than 3,400 communities. Whats more, these areas are among the most popular places in the country for outdoor recreation," he added.
For most of this century the National Forests have been heavily logged, mined, and exploited at the taxpayers expense for private gain by commercial and industrial interests. Since being created, more than half the National Forests have been lost to these activities. And, less than 20 percent of our National Forests is permanently protected under federal wilderness law.
The Heritage Forests Campaign is an alliance of conservationists, educators, scientists, clergy and ordinary Americans who are working together to ensure that our unprotected scenic wilderness forests are permanently protected.