BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Gov. Jim Risch plans to
present his petition to manage Idaho's 9.3
million acres of roadless U.S. Forest
Service land on Wednesday in Washington,
The plan has been praised by the timber
industry as sensible even as environmentalists
say it would open great swaths of pristine
forest to destructive development.
Risch planned to defend his 69-page plan
before the Roadless Area Conservation
National Advisory Committee that advises
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns on such
petitions. Johanns oversees the Forest
The governor aims to ban road-building on
about 3 million acres, while allowing some
development on the rest, including roads for
timber harvests aimed at removing beetle-killed
trees some fear boost the danger of big
Groups including Trout Unlimited, a fishing
and hunting organization, fear Risch's petition
-- should it win favor -- will adversely affect
important wildlife habitat. Trout Unlimited
members planned to testify Wednesday against the
"It doesn't really do Idaho's sportsmen any
favors," said spokesman Chris Hunt. "What's
important to most hunters and anglers in Idaho
is we can boast the most unspoiled, untrashed
backcountry in the West, outside of Alaska.
Under Gov. Risch's plan, we can't make that
claim any more."
Others including Coeur d'Alene-based
Intermountain Forest Association, whose members
include the Potlatch Corp. forest products
company, support Risch's plan. Serena Howarth,
an association spokeswoman, didn't immediately
return phone calls, but she's said Risch's
petition protects primeval forest while allowing
access for her members to do "restoration
Under the Risch package:
_ 1.4 million Forest Service acres would
become "wildland," closely paralleling federal
wilderness areas where roadbuilding is
forbidden. That includes land slated to become
wilderness in Idaho's Boulder and White Cloud
_ Another 1.7 million acres would be dubbed
"primitive," and would get similar protections.
_ Meanwhile, in the petition's most disputed
segment, 5.5 million acres would become
so-called "backcountry;" roads could be built
and logging done for forest health.
_ And commercial timber harvests would be
allowed on another 500,000 acres designated
Clashes over how to manage America's roadless
lands flared after President Bill Clinton
prohibited logging, mining and other development
on 58.5 million acres of roadless Forest Service
land in 38 states and Puerto Rico.
In May 2005, President Bush replaced
Clinton's plan with a process requiring
governors to petition the federal government to
protect national forests in their states.
On Sept. 20 -- the same day Risch unveiled
Idaho's roadless petition -- a California judge
ruled Bush failed to do environmental studies
before making changes allowing states to decide
how to manage their individual national forests.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte's ruling
restored the Clinton-era rule, at least for now.
Undeterred, Risch is pushing ahead under a
separate, decades-old federal rulemaking process
that lets agencies such as the Department of
Agriculture propose and establish regulations.
The process provides for public participation.
Risch aides in Boise say he's hoping for a
"fair hearing" from the Roadless Area
Conservation National Advisory Committee. Its 13
members include a ski-area lobbyist,
conservationists from the Center for Biological
Diversity, snowmobilers from the Blue Ribbon
Coalition, a former executive from wood-products
giant Louisiana-Pacific Corp. and Arch Coal
Inc., the second-largest U.S. coal mining
"Gov. Risch wants the committee to see this
is a plan that's undergone a great deal of
scrutiny and work," said Brad Hoaglun, Risch's
spokesman. "He's optimistic they won't see it
just as a reaction, as a way to open up lands.
Because that was not the process at all."