The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713

Obama Orders Time-Out for Most National Forest Roadless Areas

Leaves Some Roadless Areas Unprotected


The Obama administration today issued a new directive
requiring the secretary of agriculture to approve any road construction
or logging within 58 million acres of the remaining inventoried
roadless areas in the national forest system. While the secretary could
still approve activities in these roadless areas, today's announcement
signals that such approvals will be rare. The new process is not
extended, however, to cover those roadless areas inventoried and
identified since 2000, meaning numerous areas will remain without

"This is a critical step in the right
direction for protection of our remaining pristine forests," said
Taylor McKinnon, public lands director at the Center for Biological
Diversity. "Our last unroaded forests remain in need of strong,
nationally consistent and permanent protection."

The American public has strongly and repeatedly declared its support
for permanently protecting national forest roadless areas. But the Bush
administration undermined protections established under previous
administrations, and today roadless areas throughout most of the
country are in jeopardy. Some have already been clearcut, and others,
like those on the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, are slated for logging and clearcutting soon.

"Unfortunately, under today's announcement, the White Mountain National
Forest of New Hampshire can continue its assault on many of its
roadless areas, only because they were not inventoried until after
2000," said McKinnon. "There is no scientific or rational explanation
as to why these newly inventoried areas should not also be protected,
and we will continue to push for their inclusion in any new rule or

Spanning 58.5 million acres in 38
states, America's national forest roadless areas contain some of the
nation's last pristine forests. From the expansive wilds of the Alaska
and the Northern Rockies to the colorful deciduous woods of New England
and the Appalachians, these last remnants of unspoiled backcountry
provide critical refuge for wildlife, unparalleled recreational
opportunities and clean drinking water for millions of Americans.

Roadless areas have escaped much of the development and ecological
degradation that plagues our national forest system today. Breaking
from a history of industrial forest management, the U.S. Forest Service
in 2001 issued the landmark Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which
provided strong, national protection for all remaining roadless areas
by establishing carefully considered limitations on road building,
logging and other development.. However, soon after taking office, the
Bush administration began undoing roadless-area protections. First
failing to defend the roadless rule against industry challenges, the
administration attempted to repeal the rule entirely after
conservationists won back the important protections. Then the
administration instituted a new rule relinquishing the responsibility
for roadless-area protection to individual states, leaving these areas
at great risk.

President Obama co-sponsored a bill
to codify the roadless rule when he was a senator, and since he took
office, conservation groups have been urging the administration to take
a "time-out" on logging in all national forest roadless areas until
Congress and the courts can sort out the contradictory policies and
judicial decisions tied to the Bush administration's eight-year attack
on roadless area protection.

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.

(520) 623-5252