Wilderness Society condemns Bush Administration

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PRESS RELEASE

Contact:
Mike Anderson, 206/624-6430 x227
Kate Fielder, 202/429-2675
Michael Francis, 202/429-2662


Bush Administration and Big Business Continue Their Assault on the Roadless Area Conservation Rule

New report investigates threats to National Forest Roadless Areas

Washington, DC (April 18, 2002) --- Spurred on by their friends in the timber and oil and gas industries, the Bush administration is currently pursuing controversial logging, road construction and oil and gas drilling projects that threaten environmentally sensitive wildlands on our National Forests from Alaska to Illinois. Our Nation's Wild Forests at Risk, a report released today by The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Earthjustice and the Heritage Forests Campaign in collaboration with numerous conservation organizations nationwide, features 20 National Forest roadless areas facing impending risks that would not exist if the Roadless Area Conservation Rule were in place.

"It's their same old song. The Bush administration continues to serenade big business while tuning out the voice of the American people," said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. "With blatant disregard for the effect such actions will have on these pristine lands, the assault continues on the landmark Roadless Area Conservation Rule."

The Roadless Rule protects 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas on National Forests and Grasslands from most logging and road construction. Exceptions are made to allow road construction to fight fire, protect property and allow access to state and private lands. And although our National Forests contribute less that four-tenths of one percent of U.S. oil and gas resources, roadless areas presently under lease to oil and gas development are exempt as well.

More than 2.3 million comments from the American people--almost 10 times more than have ever been submitted for any rule in federal rulemaking history--have been received by the Forest Service on this issue, with upwards of 95% of the response in favor of the strongest protections possible for these wild forest lands.

Americans clearly understand the need for these protections. Roadless areas supply clean drinking water for millions nationwide and offer extraordinary backcountry recreational opportunities like hiking, hunting and fishing. According to the U.S. Forest Service, roadless areas provide benefits to over 220 wildlife species listed as either threatened, endangered or proposed by the Endangered Species Act, as well as habitat for a wide variety of native terrestrial and aquatic plants, including more than 1,400 Forest Service listed sensitive species.

Since assuming office, the Bush administration has approached this historically significant, well-balanced, broadly popular yet still unimplemented policy with stall tactics, lack of adequate legal defense and empty promises. More recently they've undertaken a vigorous attack at the rule's basic tenets through an onslaught of obscure bureaucratic maneuvers.

As Our Nation's Wild Forests at Risk points out, the current pursuit of Forest Service projects includes invasive road construction or the clearcuts of commercial logging in National Forests such as Alaska's spectacular Tongass rainforest, the Clearwater National Forest of Idaho, the Kootenai National Forest in Montana and the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois, among others. As well, the large footprints of gas and oil exploration threaten to disrupt the pristine qualities Americans value in the roadless areas found on California's Los Padres and Colorado's San Juan National Forests.

"Our National Forests are treasures that belong to every American, and their last remaining wildlands do not deserve the destructive misdeeds of big timber, oil and gas," added Meadows. "Why does the Bush administration insist on being at odds with the will of the American people when it comes to roadless area protection?"



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Founded in 1935, The Wilderness Society works to protect America's wilderness and to develop a nationwide network of wild lands through public education, scientific analysis, and advocacy. Its goal is to ensure that future generations enjoy the clean air and water, beauty, wildlife, and opportunities for recreation and spiritual renewal provided by the nation's pristine forests, rivers, deserts, and mountains.
To receive Wilderness Society news releases and tip sheets online, send an email message to: newsroom@tws.org, please type 'Get News Online' in the subject line and include your name and news affiliation. Or, subscribe online.
 

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