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E-M:/ Forests: Bush Administration Revokes Wild Forest Protections



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Enviro-Mich message from "Anne M. Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>
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While this action has a lesser effect in Michigan than in western
National Forests, we see here one more brazen attack by the Bush
Administration on our nation's natural heritage, marching backwards at a
faster and faster clip-- 



For Immediate Release: July 12, 2004
Contact: Annie Strickler, (202) 675-2384

BUSH ADMINISTRATION REVOKES PROTECTIONS FOR AMERICA'S WILD FORESTS

Washington, D.C. -- One of the most popular conservation policies in
American history was dealt a crippling blow today with the Bush
administration's decision to rewrite the landmark Roadless Area
Conservation Rule. The administration has proposed a convoluted process
that will leave America's last wild forests open to destructive
commercial
logging and road building. Today's announcement (*see below for more
detail) finalizes a controversial decision first proposed last summer to
allow individual Governors to decide whether federal lands located in
their
state should receive federal protection.

"The Bush administration's announcement today will immediately imperil
wild
forests across the country, leaving them vulnerable to commercial timber
sales and road building," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive
Director.
"These wild forests are special places of national significance and need
a
national policy to ensure their proper management."

Already, 440,000 miles of roads are carved into America's National
Forests.
The wildly popular Roadless Rule helped protect our remaining wild
forests
and the clean water, wildlife habitat and outstanding backcountry
recreation opportunities from more taxpayer-subsidized commercial
logging.
The Roadless Rule was developed over three years of public hearings and
scientific analysis. This policy change is the Bush administration's
latest
effort to reduce or eliminate decades of National Forest protection and
increase spending to benefit timber companies.

"The original policy was designed to protect America's last remaining
wild
forests, increasingly scarce unspoiled places that provide some of the
highest quality fish and wildlife habitat, backcountry recreation and
clean
water supplies in the country," said Pope.

Today's policy change is just one more in a string of Bush
administration
decisions to weaken or eliminate the core protections for America's wild
forests. This month, the Forest Service released its final plan for the
Threemile timber sale in the Tongass which would log more than 300 acres
of
pristine coastal rainforest and would build eight miles of new roads,
almost all of which will occur in the extraordinary Rocky Pass and
Camden
roadless areas on north Kuiu Island. The next roadless area timber sale
in
the Tongass is the Gravina Island timber sale, expected to be finalized
in
August, 2004.

In Oregon, the administration is planning one of the largest timber
sales
in modern history in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southern Oregon,
site
of the 2002 Biscuit fire. Under the guise of 'preventing forest fires',
it
amounts to the single largest timber sale in modern history and is
projected to cost taxpayers at least $5.8 million. This timber sale -
and
others across Oregon - threatens thousands of acres of roadless and old
growth wild forests.

Under the guise of "preventing fire," the Bush administration's litany
of
policy changes include an increase of ancient forest logging in the
Pacific
Northwest, reducing citizen involvement in management decisions,
removing
scientific analysis in the management of threatened and endangered
species
and increasing taxpayer subsidies to commercial logging programs.  The
Bush
administration's most pointed effort to dissect protections for wild
forests occurred with a Christmas Eve announcement last year to remove
the
Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule.

"The Bush administration has put a former timber industry lobbyist in
charge and is now dismantling decades of public environmental safeguards
piece by piece. Today's announcement is one more plank in the Bush
administration's platform of deciding National Forest management based
on
the desires of timber industry executives," said Pope.

Background Information:

*Today's Decision
The Bush administration's new policy will render the Roadless Area
Conservation Rule meaningless by requiring governors to petition the
Forest
Service to not construct roads in or otherwise develop inventoried wild
roadless forest areas. The administration also indicated that it intends
to
permanently exempt the national forests in Alaska from the roadless
rule.

The "state petition" process that the Forest Service will propose would
require a two-step process for permanent protection of roadless areas on
the national forests. First, a state governor would have to prepare an
administrative petition "to adjust management direction" for roadless
areas
in their state. The Forest Service could simply reject this petition
out-of-hand. Second, if the petition were agreed to, the Secretary of
Agriculture would establish a formal rulemaking process on a
state-by-state
basis to consider permanent protection of the roadless areas in
question.
This administrative rulemaking is time-consuming and the administration
could simply decide not to grant protection.

The proposed rule would replace the Roadless Rule, leaving all 58
million
acres of inventoried roadless areas in the United States open to road
building, logging, and resource development. Until a state governor
petitions for protection, management of inventoried roadless areas would
be
based on the individual forest management plans, which often require no
special protections.

Roadless Area Conservation Rule
The Roadless Rule, designed to protect 58 million acres of roadless wild
forests in 39 states, was the result of the most extensive public
comment
process in history, spanning three years and 600 public meetings. During
the rulemaking, the Clinton administration received a record-breaking
one
million public comments in support of protecting wild forests. To date,
the
Forest Service has received more than 2.5 million comments from the
American people, 95 percent of which favor the strongest protections for
these wild forests. From the day President Bush entered the White House,
his administration's intentions have been clear: blocking the Roadless
Rule
was one of the new administration's first decisions, followed shortly by
refusal to defend the rule in court.

Alaska's National Forests
The Tongass and Chugach National Forests comprise more than 14 million
acres of roadless areas - roughly 25 percent of land protected under the
58.5-million acre roadless rule. Alaska's National Forests have been
hammered over the years by logging, making the roadless protections for
the
Tongass and Chugach crucial. Over the past 45 years, the timber industry
has clearcut more than 1 million acres of old-growth forest and built
nearly 5,000 miles of logging roads in southeast Alaska. American
taxpayers
subsidize these roads and timber sales at a cost of $30 million a year,
according to the General Accounting Office.

Wildfires
Under the guise of wildfire "prevention," the administration pushed a
bill
of their liking, Healthy Forests Restoration Act, through Congress.
According to the Congressional Research Service logging increases the
risk
of fire by logging the larger, more fire-resistant trees that can be
converted into wood products, leaving behind the small material,
especially
twigs and needles, known as "slash." In the environmental impact
research
from the development of the Roadless Rule, the Forest Service found that
fires are twice as likely to occur in previously roaded and logged areas
than in large roadless areas. Simply, most fires are caused by human
activity: 80 percent in the West and 97 percent in the East. In
determining
budget priorities for FY '05, the administration replaced promised
funding
for honest fuel reduction with a $9 million increase in funding for
commercial timber sales and an extra $5 million for planning timber
sales
in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska.

Fish and Wildlife
This spring the Bush administration announced changes to the Northwest
Forest Plan, crippling two key pillars on which regional forest and
wildlife protections were based. Eliminating the "Survey and Manage"
standard and weakening the "Aquatic Conservation Strategy" will have
dire
and far-reaching impacts on the region's water quality and wildlife.
Both
of these provisions were designed to protect rare wildlife species that
live in mature and old growth forests and protect drinking water and
habitat for salmon and other wildlife. The Administration is also
proposing
to change the ways federal agencies consult with one another by taking
fish
and wildlife experts out of public land management and replacing them
with
bureaucrats primarily concerned with logging and grazing America's
National
Forests.

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