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E-M:/ Q&A on Natl Forest Roadless areas proposal



     Friends:  The proposal to protect roadless areas on National Forests 
     nationwide has stirred up significant controversy in Michigan. Below 
     is a Q & A prepared by Heritage Forests that may prove of interest to 
     Michigan residents.  AW
     
     
     
Status of a Legacy
     
What the Public Needs To Know
About the Largest Forest Protection Policy Ever Proposed
     
Myths versus Reality about President Clinton's proposal to 
permanently protect National Forest roadless areas
     
In mid-October 1999, atop a hill overlooking the George Washington 
National Forest in western Virginia, President Clinton directed the 
Secretary of Agriculture to initiate a federal rulemaking process to 
determine how wild, "roadless" areas in the National Forests will be 
protected. Some 60 million acres of pristine areas are currently 
exposed to logging, mining, oil drilling and damage from illegal or 
unauthorized off-road vehicle use. The task ahead for the Clinton 
team will be to craft a policy that measure up to a 5-point policy 
yardstick ensuring the permanent protection these last best places of 
public land.

At a series of public hearings and open houses hosted by the U.S. 
Forest Service throughout December 1999, opponents to the Clinton 
plan voiced several objections:
- President Clinton does not have the legal authority to protect 
roadless areas, only congress does.
- The public isn't being given a fair chance to comment on the proposed plan. 
- The public doesn't want any more public land protected because 
there is too much protected already.
- Protecting roadless areas will cause widespread economic harm to 
many communities.
- President Clinton's plan will close roads and ORV trails, shut down 
access to recreation, and keep people out of the National Forests.
- Protecting wild areas will threaten the health of forests and 
increase the risk of bug infestations and fire.

This update busts the myths being advanced by the anti-environmental 
opponents to President Clinton's responsible and popular proposal for 
protecting roadless areas in National Forests.
     
Myths and Reality
     
MYTH: President Clinton does not have the legal authority to protect 
roadless areas, only Congress does!
REALITY: WRONG. In fact, a number of existing federal laws give the 
President all of the authority he needs to protect National Forest 
roadless areas through an administrative rulemaking. Among them are 
the original National Forest Management Act (NMFA) passed in 1897 and 
the Forest Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA). In 
addition, at least one set of Forest Service regulations creates a 
mechanism for the preservation of National Forest lands' natural 
values. Under these regulations, the Forest Service Chief may 
classify lands as managed principally for recreation use 
substantially in their natural condition. In addition, these rules 
allow the Chief to designate such areas up to 100,000 acres and 
determine what uses may or may not be permitted in them. Congress' 
approval is required only when the President seeks to include public 
lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System. That is not 
what President Clinton has proposed.
     
MYTH: The public is not being given a fair chance to comment on the 
proposed plan!
REALITY: WRONG AGAIN. Few if any similar efforts by the Forest 
Service have been subject to as much public involvement and scrutiny 
as this one. The Forest Chief's top aide has been quoted in newspaper 
articles stating that the agency is actually going beyond the legal 
requirements for public input by holding an unprecedented number of 
open public meetings and open houses across the country. On October 
13, President Clinton directed the Forest Service to launch a federal 
rulemaking process to determine a final policy for protecting 
roadless areas. The first phase of that process ended December 20, 
1999. This initial phase included 10 regional public hearings and 
some 185 open houses in National Forests to gather public opinion and 
collect official comments on what should be included in a draft rule. 
A key aspect of the rulemaking process is to solicit public comment 
and input at each stage from all interested parties. The Clinton 
Administration and the U.S. Forest Service have from the beginning of 
the public debate on this MYTH in 1997 bent over backwards to 
establish an open process of unprecedented proportions for interested 
parties to comment and voice opinions. In the first three months of 
1997 alone, the Forest Service heard from more than 80,000 citizens 
with the overwhelming majority expressing their desire for permanent 
protection of all remaining National Forest roadless areas.
     
MYTH: The public doesn't want any more public land protected because 
there is too much protected already!
REALITY: NOT TRUE. There is strong public sentiment for protecting 
public benefits such as the high quality clean water, biological 
diversity, wildlife protection, and dispersed recreation found in 
roadless areas. Recent public opinion polls found that Americans 
support permanent protection of National Forest roadless areas by a 
margin of four-to-one. And in the 10 regional public hearings, 
support for President Clinton's proposal was an astonishing 
eight-to-one. Our National Forests provide clean water for about 60 
million Americans in 3,400 communities. Roadless areas serve as 
reference areas for research, bulwarks against invasive species, and 
aquatic strongholds for fishes of great recreational, subsistence, 
and commercial value. Roadless areas also often provide vital habitat 
and migration routes for numerous wildlife species and are 
particularly important for those requiring large home ranges, such as 
the grizzly bear and the wolf.
     
MYTH: Protecting roadless areas will cause widespread economic harm 
to many communities!
REALITY: JUST THE OPPOSITE. Now more than ever protected wild, 
undeveloped areas are the dominant economic asset of the National 
Forests. The most valuable assets of our National Forests include 
opportunities for outdoor recreation like hunting, hiking, camping, 
canoeing or birdwatching. In 1997, National Forests accommodated more 
than 40 percent of all outdoor recreation use on public lands in the 
United States, making it the single largest source of outdoor 
recreation in the nation, according to the Forest Service. That 
translates into real money for communities and businesses associated 
directly or indirectly with outdoor recreation. The agency estimates 
that by 2000, economic activity associated with National Forest 
recreation, including activities such as bird watching, mountain 
biking, camping, hiking, hunting and fishing, will generate $110.7 
billion annually. But logging on National Forests, which is 
subsidized by taxpayers, will generate only $5 billion in economic 
activity. In 1996, recreational fishing alone generated $8.5 billion 
worth of economic value. According to the U.S. Forest Service's 
Recreation Strategy "the National Forests and grasslands contribute 
$134 billion to the gross domestic product, with the lion's share 
associated with outdoor recreation."
     
MYTH: President Clinton's plan will close roads and ORV trails, shut 
down access to recreation, and keep people out of the National 
Forests!
REALITY: INCORRECT. The Clinton proposal says absolutely nothing about 
closing existing roads or trails typically used by ORVs. No one in the 
administration has stated or even suggested that the roadless proposal 
would result in closing existing roads or trails where they already 
exist. As part of its rulemaking process the Forest Service has said 
it will consider whether ORV use in roadless areas is suitable.
     
MYTH: Protecting wild areas will threaten the health of forests and 
increase the risk of bug infestations and fire!
REALITY: NOT EVEN CLOSE. An overwhelming body of scientific study 
shows that, among other positive features roadless areas tend to be 
the healthiest parts of the National Forests. They are healthy 
because they have experienced the least amount of disruption to their 
ecosystem. Roaded areas actually contribute to unhealthy forests 
because roads and industrial activity contribute to damage to 
watersheds and fish habitat, open the forests to invasions of 
non-native plant species, and provide access for poachers. Roadless 
areas are also least vulnerable to fire risk in part because they are 
generally found at higher elevations and have a track record of high 
intensity but low frequency fires. Roadless areas have been least 
affected by a century of fire suppression by the Forest Service. 
Furthermore, there has never been a single broad-scale, systematic 
scientific study showing that any kind of logging reduces a forest's 
susceptibility to fire. There is plenty of evidence though that 
current logging practices by private companies in the National 
Forests have contributed to fire risk and caused forest health 
problems in the National Forests.
     
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    Marshall Mayer                        mailto:marshall@egroup.org 
    Technology Project                    http://www.techproject.org
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  Help Protect America's Heritage Forests at http://www.ourforests.org
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