The Forest Service has overseen the addition of more than 380,000 miles of roads to national forests - a network more than twice the size of the national highway system. Now, the Clinton administration wants to call an 18-month halt to the construction of new roads in roadless areas.
Forest Service spokesman Alan Polk says
the proposed moratorium would give the Forest Service a chance to
reevaluate its roads program, now facing a $10 billion maintenance
backlog. But the ban would apply only to inventoried roadless areas
greater than 5,000 acres in size, though it would include areas of
more than 1,000 acres if they border existing wilderness areas.
Scheduled logging contracts would go forward under the moratorium,
as would planning for future timber sales in roadless
Road building would also continue in
unroaded regions of 19 national forests in Washington and Oregon,
the Tongass National Forest in Alaska and several forests in
California and Colorado. "The forests excluded in the Pacific
Northwest have up-to-date (management) plans that include current
science and extensive public participation," explains
Many environmental groups lobbied
unsuccessfully against the agency's exclusions. Chuck Clausen of
the Natural Resources Defense Council, questioning the agency's
claim that current forest plans are scientifically sound, says:
"Although the Forest Service likes to wrap themselves in the
blanket of good science, we have yet to see it." Ken Rait of the
Oregon Natural Resources Council calls the regional exemptions "a
significant flaw in this policy. We've eroded our protected
wilderness base to the point that we need to do everything we can
to save what's left."
Meanwhile, timber industry
representatives wonder why the proposal is necessary at all. "We're
extremely disappointed that the Clinton administration has chosen
to ignore past bipartisan efforts in the Pacific Northwest," says
Chris West of the Northwest Forestry Association, citing timber
sales planned for eastern Oregon, Montana and Idaho that would be
halted by the ban.
The public comment period on
the proposal ends Feb. 27. Comments can be sent to Director,
Ecosystem Management Coordination, Mail Stop 1104, USDA - Forest
Service, P.O. Box 96090, Washington DC 20090 or email@example.com.
The complete proposal has not yet been published in the Federal
Register, but is available on the Internet at
Nijhuis, HCN intern