Conservation-Sporting Groups Ask President to Support Full Implementation of Roadless Initiative
3/13/2001 -- --
President's review of roadless policy prevented implementation on Tuesday, March 13
ARLINGTON, VA - Two of the nation's leading conservation and sporting organizations are calling on President Bush to support the full implementation of the U.S. Forest Service's roadless initiative, which he delayed on his first day in office.
March 13th is the day the Forest Service's roadless policy would have become law without President Bush's delay order. The initiative, which began in 1998, was finalized in the last days of the Clinton Administration. The delay lasts for sixty legislative days and will expire in early May if not acted on by Congress.
The roadless initiative would ban new road construction in 58 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the national forests, while maintaining access for anglers, hunters and other public users. These current roadless areas are known to include some of the best remaining habitat for fish and wildlife in the nation.
"The Forest Service's roadless initiative is a common sense approach to preserving fish and wildlife habitat in our nation's public-held forests. It would be wise, from a sporting, conservation and environmental standpoint, for President Bush to implement the policy in its entirety as soon as possible," said Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited's Vice President for Conservation.
Moyer added that existing poorly designed and maintained roads are some of the biggest environmental threats to aquatic life and wildlife in our national forests, promoting soil erosion in fish spawning and rearing areas and destroying the water quality of streams. He noted that a ban on new roads in the roadless areas would not only protect the ecological health of fish and wildlife, but the nation's fiscal health as well.
"The forest roads debate must start by recognizing that the Forest Service has an $8.4 billion backlog on maintenance and reconstruction of its existing 386,000 miles of road," said Douglas H. Grann, president and CEO of Wildlife Forever. "Why build more when we can't care for what we have?"
The roadless initiative only prohibits new roads; it will not impact existing classified or unclassified roads, and the road construction ban is subject to valid existing rights, such as private land-holdings so it will not affect road access to private lands. Timber harvest would be prohibited in the roadless regions except for stewardship cutting to improve fish and wildlife habitat and forest health and to reduce wildfire risks.
"These roadless areas have remained such for a reason -- many are difficult to access, marginal for timber harvesting and easy to damage environmentally. They should be left roadless for that reason," Moyer said.
Moyer added that, in addition to implementing the roadless policy, President Bush should focus on the problem of existing poorly maintained roads in the National Forests and eliminating, where appropriate, watershed-killing roads that can't be fixed. He said the President should request, and Congress ought to appropriate, the funds that the Forest Service needs to improve road maintenance and reconstruction, as well as funds needed to eliminate unfixable roads.
"World class hunting and fishing are still available to the public in the remote areas of our National Forests and use trends show hunting and angling use rising at five percent per year nationwide," said Grann. "In some areas like California, hunting use of National Forests is doubling in eight years, while fishing use of Alaska's Tongass National Forest doubled in the last seven years."
Grann added that if America's 50 million hunters and anglers double as the U.S. population doubles during this century, wild space open to the public will be at an absolute premium. "It is our job to make a wilderness hunting and fishing experience possible for future generations and keeping roadless areas roadless is the best way to do that," he said.
Trout Unlimited is the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of trout and salmon rivers and streams and their watersheds. The organization has approximately 125,000 members in North America. Wildlife Forever has 70,000 members and is the non-profit conservation arm of the North American Hunting Club and North American Fishing Club.