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E-M:/ FSEEE on Roadless Policy

Enviro-Mich message from "David E. Allen" <dallen@nmu.edu>


Below is an FSEEE Activist Alert about the Roadless policy.  I think that 
this is of topical importance to MI resident - Ottawa has 4000 acres, 
Hiawatha has 8000acres, and Huron-Manistee has 4000 acres (more or less) 
that are immediately involved, as well as other acreage that would come up 
at other times. Further, the existence value of protection in other areas 
of the country is important to me, and perhaps to many others.

With respect to FSEEE approval, they say (below) "As always, please pass 
this action alert on to your friends and colleagues. Thank you very much!"

So read it - and write.



Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 16:40:24 -0700
To: list@list.afseee.org
From: afseee@list.afseee.org (FSEEE E-Activist)
Subject: FSEEE E-Activist vol. 4, no. 5

Electronic Journal Helping You Influence National Forest Policy
Volume 4, No. 5
June 23, 2000

Act Now to Protect Roadless Areas Nationwide

Last October, President Clinton announced a "roadless initiative" to 
permanently protect up to 51.5 million acres of national forest roadless 
lands, more than 1/4 of America's national forest system. The president's 
initiative, which will be transformed into official Forest Service policy 
later this year, would significantly affect existing agency plans to 
harvest 1.1 billion board feet of timber and construct or reconstruct an 
estimated 1,444 miles of roads in inventoried roadless areas by 2004.

It may sound like a done deal, but it's not. The government is currently 
inviting your input to help shape the final policy. In May, the Forest 
Service released for public comment the Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement (DEIS) for the Roadless Areas Proposed Rule. Not surprisingly, 
the proposal bears the mark of political compromise. In several respects, 
the preferred alternative falls short of effectively protecting the 
ecological and social values of the nation's remaining roadless 
areas-values such as habitat for fish and wildlife, clean water, and sites 
for primitive recreation and spiritual renewal.

The Roadless Areas proposal has three parts: (1) prohibitions, (2) 
procedures, and (3) special consideration of the Tongass National Forest. 
Each part has its own set of alternatives. The prohibitions refer primarily 
to a ban on road construction and reconstruction in inventoried roadless 
areas (those over 5,000 acres in size), although two alternatives would 
also place limits on logging activities. The procedures create guidelines 
for local forest managers to evaluate and manage existing roadless areas, 
including "other" roadless areas less than 5,000 acres. The third, highly 
controversial part of this proposal would exclude roadless areas in the 
Tongass National Forest from the immediate prohibitions on road building 
and delay a decision on this matter until the Tongass forest plan is 
reviewed in 2004.

The inadequacies of the proposal are significant, most notably the 
exemption for the Tongass National Forest. The proposed policy also lacks 
(1) adequate criteria for the protection of roadless areas less than 5,000 
acres, and (2) specific restrictions on a number of activities that have 
the potential to create ecological harm, such as commercial logging and 
off-road vehicle use. The current proposal leaves these matters to the 
discretion of local forest managers without providing standards for making 
consistent, ecologically responsible decisions.

The Forest Service is inviting public comment on this proposed rule until 
July 17. We urge you to send a letter requesting inclusion of the Tongass 
National Forest in the prohibition on road building and more specific 
protective guidelines for all roadless areas.


The Forest Service was once the world's premier road building agency. 
Approximately 400,000 miles of forest roads now lace the national forest 
system. Most of these roads were built to gain access to valuable timber 
resources within the national forests. In recent decades, as unroaded lands 
dwindled in size and number, American citizens, scientists, and resource 
professionals began to take a greater interest in wild forestlands for 
reasons other than timber. Pressure to save the remaining wild lands 
mounted in tandem with a growing recognition of their increasing value as 
habitat for sensitive plants and animals, as watersheds that provide clean 
water for communities and ecosystems, and as areas for primitive recreation 
and spiritual renewal.

National forest roadless areas greater than 5,000 acres were previously 
inventoried in 1979. Though some areas have since received protection under 
the Wilderness Act, most are still threatened by or have already been 
degraded through commercial logging, road building, and other activities. 
The proposed rule targets the remaining unroaded portions (51.5 million 
acres) of inventoried roadless areas on national forests, but 8.5 million 
acres are located in the Tongass and are considered separately.

What about roadless areas smaller than 5,000 acres? The 5,000-acre 
criterion is somewhat arbitrary and relates primarily to size requirements 
for wilderness designation, not necessarily the ecological or social value 
of a given roadless area. Many smaller tracts of land offer significant 
ecological and social values. These areas should be evaluated for inclusion 
under the policy, yet the proposed rule leaves evaluation and management 
decisions for these "other roadless areas" in the hands of the individual 
national forests. In many cases, decisions about roadless areas smaller 
than 5,000 acres may be years away.


Road construction is the only activity that is definitively banned by the 
proposed rule-even though other types of activities, such as logging, 
grazing, mining, and off-road vehicle use, obviously can affect the 
character and ecological and social values of roadless areas. The agency's 
preferred prohibition alternative, Alternative 2, keeps the door open for 
commercial logging in roadless areas through the use of helicopters and 
existing roads.  Alternative 3 advocates a more responsible approach by 
banning high-impact commercial timber sales but allowing forest managers to 
carry out stewardship activities such as thinning trees for fire 
management, insect control, or habitat restoration. But the big gaping hole 
in these prohibitions is that NONE of the alternatives specifically 
addresses restrictions of high-impact activities beyond road building and 
logging. In particular, a nationwide prohibition on new off-road vehicle 
routes in roadless areas seems appropriate, given that a primary purpose of 
the proposed policy, according to the Forest Service, is to avoid 
activities that "compromise the significant social and ecological values of 
remaining roadless areas."


The Tongass National Forest is the heart of the world's largest remaining 
expanse of temperate rainforest, harboring populations of brown bears, 
eagles, and wolves, large runs of salmon, and old growth spruce, hemlock 
and cedar. The Tongass is truly one of the great treasures of our public 
lands system. Yet the Forest Service proposes to exclude the Tongass' 8.5 
million acres of roadless areas from the immediate prohibition on road 
building. Any decision to apply the prohibition would be postponed until 
the 5-year forest plan review in 2004. By that time, the outstanding 
natural values associated with many of the Tongass' remaining roadless 
areas will almost certainly be lost.

What are the real reasons for exempting the Tongass National Forest from 
the road building prohibition? A brief look at the facts, as described in 
the DEIS, reveal this to be a political and economic decision, not a 
science-based decision. The DEIS states, "About two-thirds of the 
[Tongass'] planned timber volume in the next 5 years would be from 
inventoried roadless areas."  And of the estimated 806 miles of road 
construction or reconstruction planned nationwide to support logging in 
roadless areas through 2004, the DEIS indicates that 512 miles-more than 
half-are located in the Tongass. According to the DEIS, the proposed policy 
would stop only 39 percent of the roads currently planned for inventoried 
roadless areas nationwide.

We don't think this makes for a strong or consistent policy, but you don't 
have to take our word for it. Hundreds of eminent scientists and natural 
resource professionals nationwide, including E. O. Wilson, Paul Ehrlich, 
and Thomas Lovejoy, could find no scientific reason for exempting the 
Tongass. In a joint letter to President Clinton, they stated, "Excluding 
the Tongass would severely compromise the scientific legitimacy of any 
national policy on the protection of roadless areas in our national forest 

The president's announcement last fall promised a new vision for our last 
remaining wild lands-a vision that celebrates and conserves their wildness, 
openness, solitude, primitiveness, beauty, and grandeur. But compromises 
threaten to weaken the president's roadless initiative. Since the last 
roadless inventory in 1979, about 140,000 acres of national forest roadless 
areas have been lost to road building and logging each year, or a total of 
2.8 million acres. Without effective protection from high-impact 
activities, millions more will be degraded in future decades. The time is 
now to protect our nation's remaining roadless lands.


The Forest Service is currently soliciting public comment on the DEIS until 
July 17. This is your opportunity to tell the Forest Service what changes 
you would like to see in the proposed national roadless policy. In 
addition, individual national forests are currently holding public meetings 
to accept comments on this issue. Contact your local forest for details, or 
search the meeting list on the roadless website at 

Letters should be sent to:
USDA Forest Service - CAET
Attention: Roadless Areas Proposed Rule
P.O. Box 221090
Salt Lake City, UT 84122

Or by e-mail to: Roadlessdeis@fs.fed.us

You may also fill out an online comment form at the website listed above.

Letters in the mail often have more impact than letters sent by e-mail. 
Remember: your comments should be postmarked by July 17 to receive full 
consideration as the Forest Service finalizes the roadless policy.

Here is a SAMPLE LETTER that you may use to help write your own personal 

Michael Dombeck
Chief of the Forest Service

Dear Chief Dombeck:

Please save the roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest and do not 
exempt them from the prohibitions and procedures of the Roadless Areas 
conservation policy. The Tongass deserves full protection to ensure the 
future health of its fish, wildlife, watershed, and other natural values. 
Logging on the Tongass costs taxpayers millions of dollars more than our 
government earns from timber sales. Environmentally and economically 
speaking, Tongass roadless areas deserve to remain wild and unroaded.

I also urge you to create stronger, consistent guidelines for responsible 
ecological management of our roadless areas. Prohibition Alternative 3 is 
the best of the listed alternatives, but should also prohibit high-impact 
activities such as new routes for off-road recreational vehicles. The 
proposed policy also needs to better address the protection of roadless 
areas less than 5000 acres.  Many of these smaller areas contain 
significant ecological values, such as key habitat for threatened, 
endangered, or sensitive species.



As always, please pass this action alert on to your friends and colleagues. 
Thank you very much!

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