Vilsack Calls for Renewed Emphasis on Forests

Publication: Associated Press

Author: Phuong Le


08/15/2009 - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday outlined a vision for managing the nation's forests that placed a high priority on restoration to protect water resources and combat climate change.

"Conserving our forests is not a luxury," but a necessity, the former Iowa governor said at Seward Park in Seattle in his first major address on the Forest Service.

Vilsack stressed the importance of forests and rural lands in supplying much of America's clean drinking water, sheltering wildlife and helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

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He also reiterated the Obama administration's support for protecting roadless areas and said the agency will seek to lift a Wyoming federal court injunction that's blocked a 2001 rule that halted road construction and other development on about 58 million acres of remote national forests.

On Thursday, the Obama administration joined environmentalists to defend the so-called Roadless Rule, which was imposed by President Bill Clinton.

"The secretary's support for a national roadless policy, along with the administration's move to join conservationists in defending the roadless rule in court, marks an important step toward resolving the conflicts and patchwork approach that have hindered forest management for decades," said Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Environment Group's U.S. public lands program.

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