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For Immediate Release, January 2, 2009

Contact: Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office); (802) 318-1487 (cell)

Conservationists Oppose Destructive Logging in
White Mountain Roadless Area

U.S. Forest Service Proposes Clearcuts and
Roads for Remote Public Land

RICHMOND, Vt.— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Vermont and New Hampshire chapters of the Sierra Club today submitted an appeal to the U.S. Forest Service opposing the Mill Brook Project, a proposed logging project that would damage a portion of the Kilkenny Roadless Area in the White Mountain National Forest. The project is located near the village of Stark, N.H., north of Mount Washington.

At stake is not just the Kilkenny area, but national forest roadless areas around the country. The federal Roadless Area Conservation Rule, better known as the Roadless Rule, was implemented eight years ago, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. Unlike the down-to-the-wire rules that have been coming fast and furious out of the Bush administration, the Roadless Rule was years in the making and had enormous popular support. The rule prohibited road construction and logging in portions of the national forests that were still relatively free of development, but were vulnerable to future logging and road projects. Since the Bush administration took office, the Roadless Rule has been under attack, leaving the fate of roadless areas in limbo.

“Roadless areas are islands of beauty, health, and peace — for wildlife and people — in a world that is rapidly losing such places. Logging in roadless areas is unacceptable and cannot continue,” said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, officials with some national forests, like the White Mountain, chose to take advantage of the political situation by trying to put roads and clearcuts in roadless areas, claiming a supposed exception to the law. The real exception, though, is their opinion of what roadless areas are for. Most Americans want to see them protected, plain and simple.”

Members of the conservation groups contend that the logging and road access proposed for the Kilkenny area will diminish its remote, roadless qualities; disturb and fragment wildlife habitat; and threaten an outstanding wild brook-trout fishery. In addition, they say the Forest Service did not analyze the harm the project would cause by the generation of greenhouse gas emissions and interactive effects of climate change and logging on the forest ecosystem.

“Our wild, unlogged forests serve a crucial function by absorbing and storing vast amounts of carbon, in wood and in the soil,” Matteson said. “By keeping our forests intact and by keeping trees out there to soak up more CO2, we buy ourselves a bit more time to reduce our carbon emissions from other sources. We also help all the plants and animals that are going to be increasingly stressed by climate change by preserving healthy habitats where they can retreat.”

The Kilkenny area is one of the largest and most isolated remaining roadless tracts in the eastern United States, in a part of New Hampshire where moose are more likely to be on the trails than hikers. Once logged and burned over in the timber-baron era of the 19th century, the area’s forests have recovered, and today they harbor black bear, American marten, northern goshawk, and even the occasional Canada lynx.

The Forest Service’s plans include destructive logging of approximately 300 acres of the Kilkenny Roadless Area, which the agency ranked as one of the best for finding solitude and remote, natural scenery. The Service is moving forward with this plan despite strong support for roadless area protection by those who know and care about the forest. That was the most frequently mentioned issue in comments on the agency’s revised Forest Plan; 90 percent of those who mentioned roadless areas said they wanted to see them protected.

The conservationists say they hope the Forest Service will follow the law and drop the project. However, if the agency doesn't, they are prepared to pursue legal protection.

“Ultimately, what’s needed is a permanent, nationally consistent, and enforceable policy to protect all roadless areas,” Matteson said. “We hope to see such policy enacted in the new Congress and under the next administration.”

. The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. The Center’s Northeast office is in Richmond, Vt.


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