Report: Threats to Roadless Forests Show National Roadless Rule Urgently Needed

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office)

Report: Threats to Roadless Forests Show National Roadless Rule Urgently Needed

WASHINGTON - A report released today by the Center for Biological Diversity
details the uncertain status of national forest roadless areas under
the Obama administration. It highlights development, such as road
construction and clearcutting, that has resulted from inconsistent
policies for roadless areas since the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation
Rule.

The report, titled Saving Our Natural Legacy: The Future of America’s Last Roadless Forests,
urges strong, nationally consistent protections for inventoried
roadless areas identified both within and subsequent to the 2001 rule.

"Americans have waited eight long years to see our last pristine
forests protected, but those protections remain far from certain," said
Mollie Matteson, a Vermont-based conservation advocate at the Center
for Biological Diversity. "It's time for a policy that establishes
strong, nationally consistent protections for all national forest
roadless areas."

The report describes how roadless
areas identified in the 2001 Roadless Rule, spanning more than 58
million acres of national forest land, have been subject to legal
disputes resulting from Bush administration attempts to circumvent the
enormously popular rule. In response to calls for a moratorium on
roadless area development, to afford time for creation of a clear,
consistent, nationwide roadless policy, Secretary of Agriculture Tom
Vilsack in May issued a one-year directive that granted him sole
authority to approve logging projects in roadless areas. But his
subsequent approval of road construction and logging in the South
Revilla Inventoried Roadless Area on the Tongass National Forest in
Alaska has cast doubts on the administration's commitment to roadless
area protection.

The report also highlights the
management results of the Forest Service's failure to extend uniform
protections to those roadless areas that have been inventoried
subsequent to the 2001 rule. Owing to these inconsistent policies,
roadless areas identified subsequent to the 2001 rule in Utah,
Minnesota, and New Hampshire continue to be subject to road building,
logging, clearcutting and other development – activities that expressly
contradict protections set forth in the 2001 rule. 

In light of ongoing uncertainty regarding the 2001 Roadless Area
Conservation Rule and continuing development of roadless areas
inventoried subsequent to that rule, the new report makes the following
policy recommendations. The administration should move swiftly to:

  • expand
    its May interim directive to cover all inventoried roadless areas in
    the national forest system, including those added through forest
    planning since 2001.
  • develop a rule to provide permanent protection for these same areas.
  • stop defending Bush administration roadless policies in court.

Also, Congress should pass legislation to protect all national forest roadless areas in perpetuity.

A
bill to codify the 2001 Roadless Rule was introduced in the last
Congressional session, and is expected to be reintroduced soon.
According to Matteson: “We have the best opportunity in a decade to
secure these incredible lands for future generations. There’s no doubt
how the American people feel about these places; it’s now time for our
leaders to act.”

“Roadless areas provide clean
drinking water for much of America, habitat for thousands of rare and
sensitive species, and islands of calm for millions of overstressed
Americans,” she went on. “President Obama said he wants to permanently
protect roadless areas. He needs to do it soon, before we lose any more
precious acres.”

The report can be viewed and downloaded at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/publications/papers/Saving_Our_Natural_Legacy.pdf

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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