Conservationists Will Monitor Bush Administration's Positive Step on Roadless Policy
Cautious Optimism Will Dictate Next Moves
5/8/2001 -- --
Arlington, VA… Trout Unlimited is cautiously optimistic after hearing President Bush's intention to keep the Forest Service's new roadless policy in place. However, because the Bush Administration has reserved the right to make changes to the policy in the future, the conservation organization said the policy must be monitored to guard against revisions that could allow habitat-destroying activities to occur on roadless areas in the national forests.
Bush’s Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, who oversees the Forest Service, announced on May 4 that the Forest Service would implement the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which restricts logging and road building activities in 58.5 million acres of now roadless national forest lands. She also made the strongest statement yet from the Administration in recognition of the value of roadless areas by saying that the Administration is, "committed to providing roadless protection for our national forests."
Roadless areas are known to include some of the best remaining habitat for fish and wildlife in the nation. Especially in the western U.S., roadless areas are vital for trout and salmon resources, and for big game, such as elk and mule deer. Additionally, the Forest Service currently has a backlog of $8.4 billion for repairs on its 386,000 miles of already existing roads.
“We are hopeful about the Administration’s position,” said TU Vice President Steve Moyer. “But with many opportunities for the Administration to take back what it has given on the roadless policy, it’s vital that the conservation community stay on their guard and constantly remind the President how many people care deeply about conserving our national forest lands and the fish and wildlife they support.”
The Administration’s plan that was announced by Secretary Veneman calls for keeping the current roadless policy in place while proposing to revise it later this year to allow for additional public comments and potentially harmful changes that could allow for increased road building for timber harvest or energy development.
The roadless policy was honed over a period of three years and included 600 public meetings and more than a million comments submitted by the public, the vast majority of which were favorable to the policy.
A recent letter to the President, asking that he keep the existing roadless areas in the national forests roadless, was signed by more than 130 hunting, fishing and recreational organizations nationwide. Additionally, a survey commissioned by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance showed that 83% of sportsmen and women were in favor of keeping roadless areas roadless.