9/6/2001 -- --
More than two million total public comments on the roadless policy expected
Sept. 6, 2001
Arlington, VA - With the extended comment period on the U.S. Forest Service's Roadless Area Conservation Rule coming to an end, Trout Unlimited is once again urging the Bush Administration to listen to the nation's anglers and hunters and implement the rule.
The public comment process for the rule, the second of which officially ends on September 10, 2001, is expected to draw more than two million public comments, the vast majority in support of keeping roadless areas in the national forests roadless.
"The Bush Administration asked for renewed public input on the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and what they received was a massive outpouring of support for keeping roadless areas in our national forests roadless," said Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited's Vice President for Conservation Programs. "Among those supporters were many conservationists and hunters and anglers, all of whom recognize that these existing roadless areas include some of the nation's best fish and wildlife habitat."
The roadless rule, which was originally approved in the final days of the Clinton Administration after 15 months of public input, applied to 58 million acres of inventoried existing roadless areas in the nation's 192 million-acre national forest and grasslands system. It would ban new road construction in these areas, while continuing to allow access into the areas for hunters, bikers, birders, horseback riders, anglers and other users of our public spaces. The policy also makes science-based exceptions for forest health, restoration and other national needs.
Immediately after the rule was announced, some western United States timber interests and western governors attacked it. Boise Cascade Corporation, a large timber conglomerate, the governor of Idaho and other western state officials filed suit in federal court in Boise, challenging the rule on the grounds that it violated the National Environmental Policy Act and would negatively affect local economies.
Upon assuming office, the Bush Administration put the rule on hold, saying they needed an opportunity to review it. The Administration received an outpouring of support for the rule, as announced by the Clinton Administration, including a letter written to President Bush and signed by more than 100 sporting and conservation organizations from across the United States, asking that roadless areas be kept roadless.
On July 6, 2001, the Bush Administration formally reopened the rule-making process on the roadless rule. The Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, announced that it would seek public comment over the next two months as part of an effort to create a new roadless policy that would help satisfy some of the rule's opponents.
One of the arguments Trout Unlimited and other conservation organizations have made in favor of keeping roadless areas in the national forests roadless is the current backlog of repair needed on existing roads in the national forests - including many that are causing environmental damage.
"It is no secret that Forest Service lands contain 50-percent of the nation's trout and salmon habitat and 80-percent of the elk, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep habitat in the lower 48 states," Moyer said. "It is also no secret that the Forest Service currently has an $8.4 billion backlog on maintenance and reconstruction of 386,000 miles of existing roads - poorly maintained roads that are contributing to the degradation of this habitat."
Moyer said it is time for the Bush Administration to heed the wishes of the American public and take steps to protect some of the last remaining wild places in the United States by fully implementing the roadless rule.
"The Bush Administration asked and the nation spoke," he said. "Now it is time for the President and his advisors to heed the will of the American people - the nation's conservationists, hunters and anglers - and fully implement the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Doing that will protect some of the last best elements of America's fish and wildlife habitat."
Trout Unlimited is the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization with over 135,000 members in the United States and Canada. It is dedicated to the protection and restoration of the nation's trout and salmon streams and their watersheds.
Steve Moyer, TU Vice President of Conservation: 703-284-9406