Federal action defies the public will and sound science; will compromise nation’s premier remaining fishing and hunting habitat
Vice President for Conservation
7/13/2004 -- Washington -- The national conservation organization Trout Unlimited (TU) today denounced the Bush Administration’s proposal to overturn the original roadless forest protection rule and in its place substitute a weak, bureaucratically burdensome policy.
The original roadless rule, established by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in January 2001 after several years of formulation, provided strong protection for 58 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in public forests and grasslands. More than 90 percent of the record 1.6 million public comments received by the USFS supported the protections in the original rule.
Despite such broad public support, the Bush administration delayed full implementation of the policy, and failed to support it during legal challenges. Maintaining for two years that it was seeking ways to fine-tune the policy, “the administration today proposed revisions to the rule that offer little in the way of durable protection for roadless areas, but lots of new red tape,” according to Chris Wood, TU Vice President for Conservation Programs.
Under the administration’s new plan, state governors would have to petition the federal government on a case-by-case basis if they want roadless areas protected. Under the original plan, roadless areas received blanket protection, and states could petition for an exception if they sought to build new roads in roadless areas.
“The new policy increases the pressure on roadless lands from timber and mining interests,” said Steve Moyer, TU VP for Government Affairs. “Meanwhile, the administration effectively has shifted a huge bureaucratic burden to the states, and it has simultaneously slashed needed protections for landscapes critical to fish and wildlife.”
Earlier this month, TU released two reports, available at www.tu.org, that illustrate the value of roadless areas in Idaho and Oregon to fishing, hunting and habitat. Among the reports’ key findings:
• 83 percent of bull trout spawning and rearing habitat in Oregon is found in areas with roadless lands.
• 74 percent of Idaho’s chinook salmon habitat is roadless.
• Oregon’s remaining westslope cutthroat trout populations are found in roadless areas of the John Day River Basin.
• 88 percent of the Idaho land in units yielding more than 90 percent branch bull elk hunting success is roadless.
• 61 percent of Idaho’s historic steelhead habitat has been lost, but 74 percent of the remaining habitat is in roadless areas.
• 72 percent of the Idaho land in units yielding more than 40 percent four-plus-point mule deer hunting success is roadless.
• Oregon’s Lahontan cutthroat populations have been reduced from eight watersheds to just two, and both are within roadless areas.
“This is a bad day for American anglers and hunters who care deeply about protecting our last best fish and wildlife habitats,” said Wood.
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 127,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.