WASHINGTON -- November 15 -- "As the public comment period for the Bush administrations proposed repeal of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule draws to a close today, Americans will now wait to see what creative plans and dizzying rhetoric the administration will employ to obscure the overwhelming public support for wild forest protections.
"More than 1.5 million Americans have submitted comments on the Bush administrations proposed repeal of the landmark Roadless Rule designed to protect 58.5 million acres of roadless wild forests. This brings to 4 million the total number of comments submitted since the original rule was first being developed in 1999, marking the most extensive public comment process in history.
"Despite this outpouring of support, we fully expect the administration to deny that millions of Americans care deeply about these forests and want a strong national policy to protect their last wild places. Over the last four years, the calls from millions of citizens and countless scientists, economists, outdoors enthusiasts and others for strong wild forest protections have fallen on deaf ears in this administration. While the concerns of millions of Americans ring hollow, when a handful of timber industry lobbyists speak, the Bush administration listens.
"From day one, the Bush administration has been unwavering in plans to open more forests to logging and road construction, and their public comment periods have been so in name only. The administration extended this comment period - which was originally to end mid-September - until after the election while still scheduling no public hearings. The administration gives the appearance of an inclusive process, but the 1.5 million Americans who spoke out this round and who overwhelmingly oppose the proposed changes now wait in limbo to see if their voices will be heard.
"The original Roadless Rule was the product of exhaustive studies and scientific, economic and public input, including 600 public meetings. Unprecedented in its overwhelming popularity, the rule garnered 10 times more public comments than any federal rule in history. Sadly, the Bush administration hastily replaced it with an ill-conceived plan that forces a convoluted process on governors and leaves Americas last remaining wild forests at risk.
"By revoking the landmark Roadless Rule, the Bush administration is leaving wild forests across the country vulnerable to destructive commercial timber sales and road building. This proposal is part of the Bush administrations overall assault on National Forest protections. From day one, the administration has worked to weaken or eliminate the core protections for Americas wild forests, putting the interests of the timber industry ahead of the clean water, recreational opportunities, economic benefits and wildlife habitat that these forests provide the country."