WASHINGTON -- May 5 -- Today the Administration revealed their final plans to overturn the popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule. This announcement puts the countrys last remaining untouched forests at grave risk to new development and disregards the wishes of millions of Americans who have repeatedly said they want these special places preserved. It follows closely another Administration misstep, congressional passage of a budget aimed at opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.
Make no mistake about it, this new policy means that nearly one-third of our precious national forest land may now be opened to new and destructive activities, like logging and oil and gas drilling, said senior policy analyst, Mike Anderson.
Roadless forests are an essential source of clean drinking water and provide countless recreational opportunities, like camping and hiking, as well as some of Americas most sought after hunting and fishing areas. According to Trout Unlimited, 83 percent of Oregons bull trout spawning and rearing habitat is found in roadless areas, and Idaho roadless lands provide vital elk habitat.
Any short-term economic gain that would result from turning over these areas to corporate special interests is significantly outweighed by the economic benefit of keeping them intact, said Steve Smith, Four Corners Assistant Regional Director.
Americas national forests are currently covered with 386,000 miles of roads - enough to encircle the earth 15 times and the Forest Service currently has a $10 billion maintenance backlog on those roads.
The Roadless Rule has garnered widespread support since 2001, ten times more public comments than any federal rule in history. Members of Congress, major corporations such as Staples, outdoor retailers such as REI, hundreds of gun groups in states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan and Governors from New Mexico, Virginia, Maine, Washington, and Pennsylvania have all announced their opposition to changes to the rule.
Under the Roadless Rule, Americans were assured that the last pristine forests would be preserved, said Michael Francis, national forests program director. Todays decision makes it very unlikely that future generations will see these forests in the same unspoiled condition they are in today.