Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Concern grows for roadless rule
Concern grows for roadless rule (11/11/04) Roseburg News-Review

November 11, 2004


A new rule that could require governors to petition the federal government to block road-building in remote areas has local environmentalists worried about some areas of the Umpqua National Forest.

If the rule changes, it would signal the end of the so-called roadless rule, adopted just before President Bill Clinton left office in 2001. The rule conserves 58.5 million acres of roadless areas of national forests -- including 2 million acres in Oregon and 110,000 acres on the Umpqua National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service is soliciting comments on the change through Monday.

The rule would give governors 18 months to petition the government if they seek protection for some, all or no roadless forests in their state. If the state does not petition for protection in the time frame, forest management would revert back to individual forest plans that environmentalists say would in many cases allow roads and other development.

Road building and logging projects would be restricted without approval of U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth until states made a decision.

Local conservationists say the first comment period leading up to the initial ban on road building already showed resounding support for the measure.

They are worried that the rule change in combination with a timber-friendly administration could lead to more road building and logging on the Umpqua.

"The federal agency is sensitive to our water supply, but they take their direction from the administration," which is responding to the logging industry, said Gerald Wisdom, president of the board of directors for Roseburg-based Umpqua Watersheds.

Local conservationists are particularly concerned about Mount Bailey, Bulldog Rock, Cougar Bluff, Donegan and Last Creek. About 22,000 acres -- 20 percent of the roadless areas -- are in matrix lands, where logging is allowed under the Northwest Forest Plan.

Umpqua National Forest officials, however, disagree the change will prompt road building and logging in the Umpqua's roadless areas.

Every project is dealt with on a case by case basis and must undergo environmental analysis and a public process, said Kathy Fletcher, spokeswoman for the UNF.

"I don't envision this as opening the door to let's go in and build roads," she said.


 At a Glance
What: The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a change to the Roadless Rule, adopted in January 2001. The new rule would require governors to petition the Forest Service in order to protect areas from road building.
Deadline for written comments: Monday
E-mail comments to: statepetitionroadless@fs.fed.us.
Fax to:(801) 517-1014
More information: http://roadless.fs.fed.us/

She said until a final rule is decided, officials won't know the local implications.

According to a description of the rule change printed in the Federal Register in July, the Forest Service estimates that the burden for an individual state could be as high as 1,000 hours for a single petition, depending on the number of roadless areas and the extent of changes recommended in the position.

That is just one reason why Umpqua Watersheds members don't approve of the change -- it places too big of a burden on Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Kulongoski opposes the rule change, and says it doesn't meet the long-term objectives of sustainable forest management in Oregon.

"I continue to believe that commercial entry into the (roadless areas) will break up the integrity of the forest ecosystem of large contiguous roadless areas, which in turn will lead to severe environmental damage to these sensitive areas," he told the Oregon Board of Forestry at a meeting in October.

The rule change also sparks local debate on the merits of building roads in those areas.

Wisdom said protecting the forest from road-building is important for keeping the Umpqua's rivers and streams clean.

"Roads in themselves create sedimentation and affect our water quality and our fish runs in a negative way."

People also have to consider if they want roads -- and possible logging -- in their national forests.

"Douglas County has values that are similar to Yosemite and Yellowstone," he said. "We have beauty, we have clean water, we have big trees."

Bob Ragon, executive director of the timber trade group, the Douglas Timber Operators, pointed out road building has not been the direction of the Umpqua National Forest in recent years.

"There's no road building going on anywhere in the Umpqua National Forest; in fact, what we're doing is un-building roads," he said.

He said the decision about roadless areas should be made at a local level.

"They're owned by everybody, but somebody has to make decisions about how they're managed. I find it difficult to believe that somebody in New York has a good idea about how the roadless areas on the Umpqua National Forest should be managed."

He added that management objectives are different depending on the area, and a blanket rule doesn't work. For example, he pointed out forests in eastern Oregon, Idaho and Montana suffer from insects and disease, and roads would allow agencies to access and manage those areas.

Wisdom, however, makes a different point: "The forests have taken care of themselves for how long now?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright klamathbasincrisis.org, 2004, All Rights Reserved