Environmental groups and the timber industry are united for once. Both oppose the Forest Service's plan for protecting roadless areas.
The plan, released May 9, comes in response to President Clinton's promise last October to protect undesignated wilderness in national forests (HCN, 11/8/99: A new road for the public lands). The proposal would ban road building on 43 million acres of forest, but local forest managers would decide whether to allow helicopter logging or other activities, taking into account social and ecological factors. The proposal also suspends a decision on protecting parts of Alaska's Tongass National Forest until 2004.
Timber industry officials say that without logging roads there will be no means of controlling wildfires or tree-killing diseases.
"All they can do is use flame throwers or wait for lightning to hit," says Frank Carroll of the Potlatch Corp. in Idaho. From another perspective, Brian Vincent of the American Lands Association calls the proposal a "bitter disappointment." Roadless areas are not permanently protected, he says, because logging and ORV access aren't permanently banned.
"They are taking baby steps where there needs to be giant leaps," he says.
In the next two months, the Forest Service will hold over 300 open meetings around the country for the public to express ideas and share information.
For a schedule of meetings, to view the proposal and draft EIS, or to comment before July 17, see roadless.fs.fed.us, or write to USDA Forest Service-CAET; Attention Roadless Area Proposed Rule, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122.