Press Release

Statement on Today's AG Challenge To The Bush Repeal Of The Roadless Rule

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Statement By Robert Vandermark, Director, Heritage Forests Campaign

"Today, three key western states, California, New Mexico and Oregon, brought the first legal challenge to the Administration's repeal of protections for America's last pristine national forests. The actions taken today once again show that the Administration is failing to accomplish their stated aim of soliciting state input because the process for submitting a petition is onerous and costly to states, states lack the expertise or desire to participate, and there is no assurance whatsoever that their requests will be honored.

"By filing this lawsuit, these states are saying they are not willing to be the fall guys for the administration's desire to open these last remaining wild forests to logging and mining.

"The public has spoken loudly and clearly that all 58.5 million acres of roadless areas should be protected. Americans don't want logging, mining and oil drilling in these precious places. In the absence of any indication that the White House is listening to the people, we applaud the bold leadership of California, Oregon, and New Mexico." (See the filing)

Background

  • The Bush administration announced its repeal of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule in early May of this year. The USDA's announcement discussed how the repeal brought states and governors into the process. See the USDA report here
  • Under the new policy, if governors wish to have roadless areas within their state protected, they must complete a petition process and file their recommendations with political appointees at the Department of Agriculture. The petitions are not binding, and the government is free to accept, modify or reject them.
  • There are 58.5 million acres of pristine National Forests that were protected under the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule – about a third of total National Forest acreage. Though the Bush administration did not hold any public hearings prior to their repeal of the rule, over 1.7 million Americans spoke out against their policy. The original Roadless Rule garnered 2.5 million comments in favor and was the subject of an unprecedented 600 public hearings.
  • In late July, 145 members of Congress introduced legislation mandating real protections for pristine National Forest areas.