- WASHINGTON, DC (ENS)
- President Bill Clinton has directed the U.S. Forest Service to develop
regulations that will permanently protect some 40 million acres of roadless
National Forest lands. The proposal would more than double the wilderness
land now protected from development, shutting out loggers and miners from
about two-thirds of America,s remaining wild lands by banning the building
of new roads.
- Clinton,s executive order would set aside 20 percent
of the total forest land in America's national forests - the largest chunk
of land protected by Presidential decree since President Jimmy Carter safeguarded
103 million acres of wilderness in Alaska. In announcing the directive,
Clinton said he hoped to continue the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt,
who dedicated 120 million acres to national forests and created five national
- Roads cut through more than half of National Forest lands,
making it harder for some species to survive (All photos courtesy U.S.
- "Our Nation has not always honored President Roosevelt's
vision," Clinton said today from the Reddish Knob Overlook in Virginia's
George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. "Too often, we have
favored resource extraction over conservation, degrading our forests and
the critical natural values they sustain. As the consequences of these
actions have become more apparent, the American people have expressed growing
concern and have called on us to restore balance to their forests."
- "With the new effort we launch today, we can feel
confident that we have helped to fulfill and extend the conservation legacy
of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, and to ensure that the 21st
century is indeed a new century for America's forests," Clinton concluded.
Pinchot was the first U.S. Forest Service (USFS) chief, appointed by President
- Clinton,s directive orders the USFS to "develop,
and propose for public comment, regulations to provide appropriate long
term protection for most or all of these currently inventoried roadless
areas, and to determine whether such protection is warranted for any smaller
roadless areas not yet inventoried."
- About 18 percent of the 192 million acre national forest
system is currently off limits to road building and development. The Washington
D.C. based Heritage Forest Campaign says another 31 percent has never been
logged or mined, but is not currently protected. The Clinton plan would
ban road building in about two-thirds of that land, or about 40 million
- Seeking to deflect attacks from the timber and mining
industries, and from Republican Congress members, Clinton emphasized that
his plan would include input from "all interested parties."
- "In the final regulations," Clinton said, "the
nature and degree of protections afforded should reflect the best available
science and a careful consideration of the full range of ecological, economic,
and social values inherent in these lands."
- Some lawmakers say the president is exceeding his authority.
Senator Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, said in a statement, "These
are not the King's lands, they are the serf's lands, they are the people's
lands. We think they ought to come to the people's body to form and shape
this kind of policy."
- Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck will be charged with
implementing Clinton's proposal
- Thirty-eight western Republican Congress members sent
a letter Tuesday to USFS Chief Mike Dombeck, stating, "We cannot stand
by idly and watch our constituents lose the right to travel on the land
- "While the Forest Service might like this step backward
to feudal European policies, it is completely unacceptable to us and those
who use our public lands," the letter said.
- With enough support in Congress, the western Republican
coalition could find a way to block Clinton,s executive order.
- Alaska,s Governor Tony Knowles, a Republican, promised
today to take all possible steps to fight the President,s plan if it includes
any part of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. "If the Tongass
is included in a national roadless policy, I would consider this to be
an outrage and a doublecross on the citizens of Alaska," Knowles said.
"As governor, I would be compelled to do everything within my power
to protect the families and communities of Southeast Alaska."
- It is not clear whether or not the Tongass National Forest
will be included in the roadless protection as no specific areas have yet
been mapped out for inclusion under the plan.
- "This initiative should have almost no effect on
timber supply," Clinton said today. "Only five percent of our
country's timber comes from the national forests. Less than five percent
of the national forests' timber is now being cut in roadless areas. We
can easily adjust our federal timber program to replace five percent of
five percent, but we can never replace what we might destroy if we don't
protect these 40 million acres."
- Timber industry officials say the Clinton plan will not
protect roadless areas, and may in fact harm some species.
- View from Big Teseque, Santa Fe National Forest, New
- "We think it comes at an unfortunate time for forest
health," Michael Klein, a spokesman for the American Forest &
Paper Association, told ENS. "We respect his goal of a healthy productive
forest. It,s our goal too. We just disagree on how to get there."
- Klein quoted USFS statistics stating that 65 million
acres of national forest lands are at high risk for catastrophic wildfires,
disease and insect infestations. Timbering could control those problems,
- "It,s hard to make the jump that logging is healthy
for a forest," Klein admits. "However, science just tells us
that it is." For example, says Klein, "you,ve got a lot of species,
such as moose and elk, that prefer wide open spaces. They prefer areas
that have been clearcut. They prefer areas where a forest fire has gone
through." Shutting 40 million acres to roads and development will
make those areas unsuitable for some species, Klein says. "You don,t
plant a garden and then build a wall around it and expect to have a beautiful
- Clinton intends to order a study of his plan's consequences,
followed by a period of public comment, which will delay implementation
of the road building ban by several months. But the White House intends
to make the order permanent before the end of Clinton's presidency at the
end of next year.
- Environmental groups praised the plan as a crucial step
toward protecting all remaining roadless forest areas.
- "President Clinton is taking a great step to ensure
future generations of Americans can enjoy healthy, productive forests,"
said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope. "Roadless areas are
the remaining remnants of our nation,s forest heritage and deserve permanent
- Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon
- "This is truly a monumental moment in conservation
and American history," said Ken Rait, director of the Heritage Forests
Campaign. "President Clinton should be thanked by us all today for
his vision to create a natural legacy for future generations of Americans."
- "President Clinton's announcement means that unprotected
forest wilderness in the National Forests could be spared from any more
scarring by industrial exploitation, " said Steve Holmer, campaign
coordinator for the American Lands Alliance. "For this policy to be
credible it must protect roadless areas in all national forests from logging,
mining, roadbuilding and other damaging activities. These roadless areas
are not only the last best place for wildlife, but also are a source of
clean drinking water for tens of millions of Americans in more than 3,400
- Roadless Forests May Prevent Extinctions
- A new study from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the
Conservation Biology Institute, timed to coincide with Clinton,s announcement,
finds that levels of forest protection across the U.S. are "far too
low" to maintain many animal and plant species that are at risk of
- The nation's first comprehensive assessment of protected
areas found that the U.S. has set aside only five percent of its land in
strict protection such as national parks, wilderness and monuments. Another
five percent is protected as wildlife refuges and state parks, which allow
logging and mining.
- The Klamath River in Klamath National Forest, northern
- A key finding of the study is that the few remaining
national forest areas without roads are essential to ensuring animal and
plant survival. Using some of the most sophisticated mapping technology
available, WWF and CBI scientists looked at outstanding forests such as
the Klamath-Siskiyou forests of California and Oregon and the Southern
Appalachians. They found that these regions contain large tracts of unprotected
roadless areas that are threatened by road building and resource extraction.
- Overall, the study found that forest protection across
the nation varies widely from state to state. Most states east of the Mississippi
River have protected less than one percent of their land area. The western
U.S. has higher concentrations of protected areas, such as Alaska with
35 percent and California with 19 percent. But in these states most protected
areas are high elevation rock and ice.
- Nationwide, most protected areas average less than 10,000
acres - too small to maintain wildlife populations from the impacts of
logging, mining, and encroaching development, the study says.
- © <http://www.ens.lycos.com/Environment News
Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.