After holding 600 public meetings and reading 1.6 million citizen comments, the U.S. Forest Service released its final version of a plan to limit road-building on nearly one-third of America's national forests (HCN, 11/8/99: A new road for the public lands).
The preferred alternative now
includes protecting 9.3 million acres in Alaska's Tongass National
Forest, starting in 2004, and expanding the ban on road building to
58.5 million acres of national forest. While the earlier version
released last May allowed local forest managers to decide whether
to restrict logging, the new plan allows logging only to reduce the
risk of wildfire or to help endangered species. It would also
prohibit any new leases for mining coal and other minerals if new
road construction would be required. The plan would ask for up to
$20 million over the next four years to help loggers in affected
communities find jobs.
Critics like Sen. Larry
Craig, R-Idaho, say the new version still disregards rural
communities and Western states.
roadless rule is even more restrictive than the previous version,"
says Will Heart, a Craig spokesman. Craig and other Western
legislators will try to reverse it in Congress, he
Criticism also came from many
environmentalists who said the Tongass needed protection
immediately, rather than starting in 2004. But in general, most
greens were thrilled with the revised plan.
is a very big thing that the Forest Service had done by
significantly improving their recommendation on the basis of
overwhelming public output," says Ken Rait of the Oregon Natural
Resources Coalition. "There's no doubt that this is the single
largest broad-scale conservation effort in the last
Clinton is expected to approve the plan
after Dec. 18. The five-inch thick document is available for review
at all Forest Service offices, 10,000 public libraries nationwide
and on the Web at www.roadless.fs.fed.us.