Idaho Forests in Peril

For Immediate Release

Conservation Groups
Contact: 

Craig Gehrke, TWS regional director, (208) 343-8153, ext. 2, craig_gehrke@tws.org;
Chris Lancette, TWS communications director, (202) 429-2692, chris_lancette@tws.org
Craig Kenworthy, conservation director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, (406) 556-2803, ckenworthy@greateryellowstone.org
Mike Petersen, executive director, The Lands Council, (509) 990-5719, mpetersen@landscouncil.org

Idaho Forests in Peril

New policy opens millions of acres to mining, logging and roadbuilding

BOISE, Idaho - Regional and national conservation groups denounced a new state policy
going into effect today that removes virtually all protection from more than
400,000 acres of national roadless forest in Idaho. The state plan promoted by
the Bush administration also opens millions of acres of roadless forests to road
construction, logging and mining.

"When
the Idaho Roadless Rule takes effect, nearly one-half million acres of roadless
forest - an amount twice the size of the Sawtooth Wilderness -- will lose
the protection they deserve," said Craig Gehrke,
a Boise-based regional director for The Wilderness Society. "This is
bad news for every American who enjoys our roadless forests for outdoor
recreation opportunities and for the wide variety of wildlife that depend on
these forests."

Gehrke
commented in response to an administrative rule published in the Federal
Register today that replaces the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule with an
Idaho-specific rule pushed by the Bush administration. Adopted after the most
extensive public involvement in the history of federal rulemaking, the 2001
Roadless Rule protected more than 58 million acres in 44 states. 

Specifically,
the new Idaho
rule:

  • Removes virtually all protection from 400,000
    acres of roadless forests in the state allocated to general forest
    management
  • Allows new road construction in an additional 400,000
    acres of roadless land located near communities
  • Allows environmentally destructive phosphate
    mining with its associated  selenium poisoning of streams to occur in
    roadless lands near Yellowstone
    National Park
  • Creates additional exceptions for road building
    and logging to occur within the 5 million acres to be classified as
    "backcountry"
  • Would result in 15,000 acres of logging and 50
    miles of road construction in Idaho
    roadless areas during the next 15 years in order to haul out 75 million board
    feet of logs -- or 15,000 truck loads, according to Forest Service
    estimates
  • Creates a different management framework for Idaho roadless
    areas different than any other national forests, leading to administrative
    confusion, uncertainty and paperwork.  

The
multitude of negative consequences on the land will make a particularly adverse
impact on the Yellowstone area.

"Our concern is that most of the lands being released
from all roadless protection by the Idaho Rule are in the Greater Yellowstone
Ecosystem," said Craig Kenworthy, Conservation Director for the Greater
Yellowstone Coalition. "These lands are important to hunters and
anglers because of their wildlife and water quality values."

Kenworthy also notes that "The phosphate mining
industry is already responsible for a legacy of toxic pollution from past
mining operations on public lands in southeast Idaho. We don't need more phosphate
strip mines in our roadless forests."

The executive director of The Lands Council shares a
similar perspective.

"The
Forest Service has systematically roaded and logged pristine unroaded areas in North Idaho for decades," said the Council's
Mike Petersen. "The new Idaho
rule would put more of our roadless areas on the chopping block by designating
them as general forest or at risk from wildfire. The Idaho Panhandle
National Forest has
thousands of miles of roads they are unable to maintain; letting them build
more is reckless."

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