The Bush administration is planning to rewrite the rules for the nation's last tracts of roadless and unprotected wilderness.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was written during the Clinton administration, and put in place in January 2001. The rule was developed over three years in more than 600 public meetings, and has received 2.5 million public comments, 95% of them supportive. Until the recent exemption of Tongass National Forest, the rule protected 58.5 million roadless acres of national forest from roadbuilding, logging, mining, and ski resort development. By keeping large portions of national forest from development, the Roadless Rule helps ensure clean water, wilderness recreation, and wildlife habitat protection, and keeps wild forestlands intact so that future generations will be able to enjoy them.
There are 4,416,000 roadless acres in California's national forests. If the Roadless Rule is weakened or eliminated, this vast acreage of intact forest could be opened to logging, mining, and other development.

The Bush administration has failed to defend the Roadless Rule in court- and, in line with other administration attempts to stifle public input, is trying to keep citizens from defending it themselves.
In July 2003, the Wyoming District Court ruled that the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was in violation of the federal National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act. The Justice Dept. decided not to appeal this decision, whereupon several citizen groups filed their own appeal. The Justice Dept. then filed a "friend of the court" brief against the citizen groups, claiming that they did not have standing on the issue.

The Bush administration initially proposed revisions to the Roadless Rule that would have allowed Western governors to apply for exemptions from it. After the Wyoming decision, the administration announced that it will rewrite the rule entirely, giving governors more control over federal public lands in their states. And in a preview of what may be in store for forests in the rest of the country, the administration has already exempted Alaska's vast Tongass National Forest from the rule, opening 300,000 acres of old-growth forest to clear-cutting.

Environmental groups expect the administration to announce its changes to the Roadless Rule by the end of January.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule provides essential protections to the remaining wild forests in the United States. Let the Bush administration hear your concerns. Write to the head of the U.S. Forest Service, Chief Dale Bosworth, and let him know that you do not want the protections of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule weakened in any way.

Chief Dale Bosworth
USDA Forest Service
PO Box 96090
14 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20079-6090

You can also send a comment to Chief Bosworth at the Forest Service from The Heritage Forests Campaign website at http://www.ourforests.org/action/

The Heritage Forests Campaign website (http://www.ourforests.org) is an excellent source of information on the Roadless Rule, with articles, fact sheets, and links to relevant documents. They also have a page devoted to the Tongass, with a wealth of links.


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places