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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
 

Roadless Debate Demands More Than Mindless Rhetoric

Washington, DC - House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) today responded to the claims of radical environmentalists who have alleged that the Bush Administration roadless area proposal "is a giveaway to the oil and timber companies."

"Every federal land and forest management policy in the last twenty years has been shamelessly decried as a giveaway to industry by so-called environmentalists in this country," Chairman Pombo said. "In that time, however, national timber sales have plummeted by 80%, from eleven billion board feet a year to less than 2 billion board feet today. Domestic oil production has also decreased by roughly 40%."

Then (1982): "The [Reagan] Administration's policy is to open forests and wilderness to oil, gas, and mineral development." - Friends of the Earth, NRDC, Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, et al.

Now: "This is the biggest single giveaway to the timber industry in the history of the national forests." - National Environmental Trust

"So what industry benefits from these supposed giveaways?" Pombo continued. "Most of the companies that once bought federal timber have been forced out of business in America, and the number, size, and intensity of our catastrophic forest fires have quadrupled. Neither timber, nor oil, nor forest health have benefited. The only industry that has benefited from these supposed giveaways is the environmental scare-peddling and fundraising industry. The size and scope of this special interest has increased dramatically, at the expense of honest Americans who have lost good jobs in the resource sector."

"The truth is the Bush Administration took lemons and made lemonade with this policy. The new rule will inject common sense and local control into Clinton's eleventh-hour, mindless edict. Forest management decisions should be made at the state level by people who know individual forest conditions best, not by bureaucrats surrounded by concrete in Washington. The radical environmental fundraising industry may not trust governors, states, and local folks to make good forest management decisions, but this Administration does. And so do I."

The Clinton Administration Roadless Rule:

In 2001, the Forest Service finalized a regulation that established national land use policy for over 58 million acres of national forest land identified first in 1972 as "roadless." The rule established blanket, nationwide prohibitions generally limiting, with some exceptions, timber harvest, road construction and reconstruction within inventoried roadless areas on national forests and grasslands across the country.

The Facts:

* 58.5 million acres locked away in Clinton rule
* IRA's with moderate to high risk of catastrophic fire: 40% or 23,000,000 acres
* The Clinton/Gore roadless policy, because of its legal and technical faults, will be tied up in courts for years.
* The Clinton/Gore policy was full of inaccurate information (2.8 million acres of designated roadless actually have roads), designating many areas with roads as roadless.
* Some of these designated roadless areas are "pristine" and deserve further protection. However, most are not pristine and need to be managed in order to control insect and disease outbreaks or to reduce hazardous fuels so that catastrophic fires don't consume the landscape. These decisions can only be made at the local level with site-specific information.
* One-size-fits-all fiats from Washington D.C. have never been, and will never be, scientifically accurate, socially acceptable, legally defensible, or politically responsible.
* The Clinton/Gore Administration claimed that they did an EIS to justify their decision. This EIS covered almost 60 million acres and was done in less than a year. Unbelievable considering environmentalists have consistently litigated forest project EIS's for lack of site-specific analysis and these typically only involve a few hundred acres and may take a number of years to complete.
* The Clinton/Gore policy usurps the legal authority of Congress to create wilderness, as directed by the 1964 Wilderness Act.

The Bush Administration Roadless Rule Proposal:

The new rule establishes a collaborative process in which governors will work with the USDA and all interested local parties to make state-specific rulemakings for both conservation and management of roadless areas. The approach will give local communities the ability to identify areas for inclusion, set up local management plans, protect local resources and assure citizens access to private property.

The Facts:

* The proposal would provide an opportunity to correct the flaws contained in the 2001 Roadless Rule. Not all areas designated as "roadless" under the 2001 rule were actually roadless or pristine. A survey of just 17 affected national forests found roads, power lines, Federal Aviation Administration radar and tower sites, water and gas pipelines, campgrounds, mines, reservoirs, and a radio tower within "roadless" areas.

* The proposal would allow local review of the impact of the national roadless rule, something that was missing in the 2001 rule. The proposed rule acknowledges the importance of local and state level participation in the decisions on roadless. It creates a platform for state-initiated legislative action to gain access to some areas or restrict access to other areas. The one-size-fits-all, Washington, DC-based approach of the 2001 rule ignored local experience, input and impacts, tying the hands of local land managers as they try to manage very diverse forests with varying needs.

* The proposal would allow states to explicitly address the problems of private and state inholdings within inventoried roadless areas. There are at least 422,000 acres of private lands and 43,000 acres of state lands within the 45 million acres of inventoried roadless areas identified by the 2001 rule.

* The proposal would create healthier national forests. According to the Forest Service, almost 40% of the inventoried areas under the 2001 rule are at moderate to high risk from catastrophic wildfire. The new rule explicitly recognizes the need to consider the risk of catastrophic wildfires or insect and disease infestations and allows projects to address these problems through decisions by the Secretary of Agriculture.

* Under the proposal, the Secretary of Agriculture would still maintain "final say". Once state officials file their petition with the Forest Service, the Secretary of Agriculture still maintains the final say on whether or not to grant the state an exemption from the national rule. This is important because the Department of Agriculture is ultimately responsible for the management of these lands.

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