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E-M:/ Bush plan weakens Roadless Rule

National Environmental Trust / Michigan

CONTACT: Vicki Levengood, NET / MI: 517-333-5786, or 517-230-3968 cel
Bush Administration Announces Plan To Weaken Forest Conservation Policy

The Bush Administration announced today that it will uphold a popular forests conservation policy, but would propose changes next month that could severely undermine the rule. 
"Of course President Bush wants to look like he's upholding an overwhelmingly popular rule, but we won't know until he proposes changes in June whether or not he really intends to actually protect the National Forests," said Vicki Levengood, Michigan representative of the National Environmental Trust.
16,000 acres of roadless wilderness in Michigan's National Forests will be at risk to logging, mining, and roadbuilding if the original rule is not implemented.
Under the Bush Administration proposal, the policy, also known as the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, would be implemented through the forest planning process, giving final say over protection of these areas to individual US Forest Service supervisors.  Under the original rule, logging and other development would be limited in all roadless areas in National Forests.
"The term 'local input' is just code for giving the timber industry a blank check to log the few remaining pristine acres in our National Forests," said Levengood.  "These are National Forests.   Letting local officials decide what to do with National Forests is like allowing county commissioners to decide whether or not to put a Wal-Mart in the middle of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore." 
According to the US Forest Service, over the last 70 years, local control of forest management has led to more than 383,000 miles of roads on National Forest land --­ enough to circle the planet 15 times.  The system of roads has created a maintenance backlog of more than $8.4 billion.
This latest announcement comes on the heels of a number of national polls suggest President Bush's approval rating is dropping as a result of unpopular decisions on the environment.
The plan will affect National Forests across the country, including the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, where a number of permits for logging are already being processed.
After the most extensive public rulemaking ever, encompassing more than 600 public hearings and 1.6 million comments, the U.S. Forest Service issued the Roadless Area Conservation Policy on January 5, 2001. The Roadless Area Conservation Policy was designed to protect the last remaining wild National Forest lands from most logging, except when needed to restore ecological integrity, protect habitat for endangered species, or reduce threats of catastrophic wildfires.