Skip to comments.White House Proposal Would Leave Forest-Use Decisions to Governors
Posted on 07/12/2004 4:51:59 PM PDT by SJackson
ASHINGTON, July 12 The Forest Service today proposed scuttling a Clinton-era rule, which put 58.5 million acres of national forest largely off-limits to logging, mining or other development, in favor of a new system that leaves it to state governors to seek greater or fewer strictures on the construction of logging, mining, recreational or other roads on federal forest land.
The announcement, made by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman in Boise, Idaho, a state where ideological opposition to the Clinton rule was most pronounced, was a signature moment for the Bush Administration's environmental policy.
After three years of gradually retreating from the sweeping preservationist rule, which covered about 30 percent of the 191 million acres of national forests and was embraced by environmentalists, the administration decisively rejected it and substituted a patchwork process that makes state officials the moving force in decisions of whether to log or to conserve forest lands.
In her press conference today, Secretary Veneman portrayed the Bush administration's proposal both as a way to avoid the tangle of litigation provoked by the Clinton rule and a way to enhance local participation and federal flexibility in determining the use of national forest land. Final decisions on state petitions will be made by the Forest Service.
But a broad spectrum of environmental groups including some usually sympathetic to the Bush administration voiced outrage and disappointment at the announcement. "This doesn't ensure that a single acre of roadless area gets protected," said Marty Hayden, a lawyer with Earthjustice, one of several groups that are defending the Clinton-era rule in Federal court.
"Everything could be up for grabs," he added.
Jim Range, a former senior Republican congressional staffer who in 2001 helped establish the Forest Road Working Group, issued a statement today saying that the loss of the Clinton-era protections was a disappointment.
"The current regulation established an important degree of certain protection to these valuable areas, which provide important fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for American hunters, anglers, campers, hikers, and others," Mr. Range said in a prepared statement.
"The new process by which state governors can submit new roadless area protection plans will perpetuate the uncertainty associated with this issue and may lead to a substantial reduction in the level of protection that roadless areas are afforded."
The proposal, which will be open to public comment for the next 60 days, includes a provision for an 18-month moratorium on new activity, during which time changes to the current roadless designation could be made only with the approval of the Forest Service chief, Dale Bosworth.
One timber sale, involving 665 acres of land in the Tongass National Forest, was approved by Mr. Bosworth last week. The Tongass, a West Virginia-sized swath of rock and timber in southeastern Alaska, had separately been exempted from the Clinton rules protections by an earlier decision.
The new proposal would allow Alaska's governor to petition for further logging efforts. The 12 states most affected by the roadless controversy, which contain 56.6 million acres, or 97 percent, of all roadless areas in the country, are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Dirk Kempthorne, Idaho's Republican governor, appeared with Secretary Veneman at today's news conference and said of roadless protections: "There's a right way and a wrong way to make that determination. Today the Federal government and the Bush administration is doing it the right way. We now have a roadless process that can be accomplished by respecting state sovereignty."
In a later conference call with reporters, New Mexico's Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, said of his state's 1.1 million acres of roadless forest: "These are areas that the federal government should manage consistently from state to state." Today's announcement, he added, "is another abdication" of federal responsibility.
someone posted a state / federal land map recently. The amount of land owned by the federal .gov in alaska and nevada is obscene.
Yes, someone wishes to keep the West and Alaska undeveloped for the most part. No better way than to deny the private sector private property rights. Even Prudhoe Bay is just oil and gas rights--subsurface mineral rights. If they want gravel out of the Sag River they need a special permit. We might wonder who wishes this. The Federal gov't is probably not the interested party. I'm not into conspiracies unless I make them up myself.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.