The Bush administration is launching its latest strike against the so-called roadless rule, a Clinton-era policy prohibiting destructive logging and road construction on 58.5 million acres of pristine national forests. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman will announce a new plan today -- wiping out the nationwide Roadless Area Conservation Rule -- that will require governors to petition the federal government to block road-building in remote areas of national forests. Veneman has claimed that the plan to "cooperatively conserve" roadless areas will preserve "the undeveloped character of the most pristine areas of the National Forest System."
The following is a statement by Amy Mall, senior forest policy specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
"The Bush administration's sham forest plan is a permanent roadblock to roadless protection. This new policy eliminates one of the most popular and most important land conservation measures in history.
"No governor who truly believes in protecting homes and communities from wildfires would allow more roadbuilding and logging in roadless areas. The Forest Service's own research shows that roadbuilding and logging in wild backcountry areas can lead to more and bigger fires.
"A vast majority of Americans who have spoken on the roadless rule are in favor of protecting these pristine places. But the Bush administration has ignored these pleas while continuing its efforts to strip away roadless protection.
"This new policy isn't about protecting pristine places. If it were, then the Bush administration wouldn't have lifted roadless protection -- allowing logging and road building -- in the Tongass rainforest, the crown jewel of America's national forests.
"This plan is really about using red tape to bypass the will of the American people, and adding more obstacles to the process of protecting roadless areas. Another level of bureaucracy promises only delay and eventual forest destruction."
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Santa Monica and San Francisco.