For Immediate Release, July 28, 2009
Contact: Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office); (802) 318-1487 (cell)
Report: Threats to Roadless Forests Show National Roadless Rule Urgently Needed
WASHINGTON, D.C.— A report released today by the Center for Biological Diversity details the uncertain status of national forest roadless areas under the Obama administration. It highlights development, such as road construction and clearcutting, that has resulted from inconsistent policies for roadless areas since the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
The report, titled Saving Our Natural Legacy: The Future of America’s Last Roadless Forests, urges strong, nationally consistent protections for inventoried roadless areas identified both within and subsequent to the 2001 rule.
"Americans have waited eight long years to see our last pristine forests protected, but those protections remain far from certain," said Mollie Matteson, a Vermont-based conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's time for a policy that establishes strong, nationally consistent protections for all national forest roadless areas."
The report describes how roadless areas identified in the 2001 Roadless Rule, spanning more than 58 million acres of national forest land, have been subject to legal disputes resulting from Bush administration attempts to circumvent the enormously popular rule. In response to calls for a moratorium on roadless area development, to afford time for creation of a clear, consistent, nationwide roadless policy, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in May issued a one-year directive that granted him sole authority to approve logging projects in roadless areas. But his subsequent approval of road construction and logging in the South Revilla Inventoried Roadless Area on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska has cast doubts on the administration's commitment to roadless area protection.
The report also highlights the management results of the Forest Service's failure to extend uniform protections to those roadless areas that have been inventoried subsequent to the 2001 rule. Owing to these inconsistent policies, roadless areas identified subsequent to the 2001 rule in Utah, Minnesota, and New Hampshire continue to be subject to road building, logging, clearcutting and other development – activities that expressly contradict protections set forth in the 2001 rule.
In light of ongoing uncertainty regarding the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule and continuing development of roadless areas inventoried subsequent to that rule, the new report makes the following policy recommendations. The administration should move swiftly to:
- expand its May interim directive to cover all inventoried roadless areas in the national forest system, including those added through forest planning since 2001.
- eliminate the Tongass exemption for the 2001 Roadless Rule and clarify that the Rule applies to all newly-inventoried roadless areas.
- stop defending Bush administration roadless policies in court.
Also, Congress should pass legislation to protect all national forest roadless areas in perpetuity.
A bill to codify the 2001 Roadless Rule was introduced in the last Congressional session, and is expected to be reintroduced soon. According to Matteson: “We have the best opportunity in a decade to secure these incredible lands for future generations. There’s no doubt how the American people feel about these places; it’s now time for our leaders to act.”
“Roadless areas provide clean drinking water for much of America, habitat for thousands of rare and sensitive species, and islands of calm for millions of overstressed Americans,” she went on. “President Obama said he wants to permanently protect roadless areas. He needs to do it soon, before we lose any more precious acres.”
The report can be viewed and downloaded at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/publications/papers/Saving_Our_Natural_Legacy.pdf
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 225,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.