For Immediate Release, May 28, 2009
Contact: Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Obama Orders Time-out for Most National Forest Roadless Areas
Leaves Some Roadless Areas Unprotected
WASHINGTON— The Obama administration today issued a new directive requiring that the Forest Service receive approval from the secretary of agriculture for any new road construction or logging within 58 million acres of the remaining inventoried roadless areas in the national forest system. While the secretary could still approve activities in these roadless areas, today’s announcement signals that such approvals will be rare. The new process is not extended, however, to cover those roadless areas inventoried and identified since 2000, meaning numerous areas will remain without protection.
“This is a critical step in the right direction for protection of our remaining pristine forests,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our last unroaded forests remain in need of strong, nationally consistent and permanent protection.”
The American public has strongly and repeatedly declared its support for permanently protecting national forest roadless areas. But the Bush administration undermined protections established under previous administrations, and today roadless areas throughout most of the country are in jeopardy. Some have already been clearcut, and others, like those on the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, are slated for logging and clearcutting soon.
“Unfortunately, under today’s announcement, the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire can continue its assault on many of its roadless areas, only because they were not inventoried until after 2000,” said McKinnon. “There is no scientific or rational explanation as to why these newly inventoried areas should not also be protected, and we will continue to push for their inclusion in any new rule or legislation.”
Spanning 58.5 million acres in 38 states, America’s national forest roadless areas contain some of the nation’s last pristine forests. From the expansive wilds of the Alaska and the Northern Rockies to the colorful deciduous woods of New England and the Appalachians, these last remnants of unspoiled backcountry provide critical refuge for wildlife, unparalleled recreational opportunities and clean drinking water for millions of Americans.
Roadless areas have escaped much of the development and ecological degradation that plagues our national forest system today. Breaking from a history of industrial forest management, the U.S. Forest Service in 2001 issued the landmark Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which provided strong, national protection for all remaining roadless areas by establishing carefully considered limitations on road building, logging and other development.. However, soon after taking office, the Bush administration began undoing roadless-area protections. First failing to defend the roadless rule against industry challenges, the administration attempted to repeal the rule entirely after conservationists won back the important protections. Then the administration instituted a new rule relinquishing the responsibility for roadless-area protection to individual states, leaving these areas at great risk.
President Obama co-sponsored a bill to codify the roadless rule when he was a senator, and since he took office, conservation groups have been urging the administration to take a “time-out” on logging in all national forest roadless areas until Congress and the courts can sort out the contradictory policies and judicial decisions tied to the Bush administration’s eight-year attack on roadless area protection.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 220,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.