ACTION ALERT: President Bush and Roadless Forest Protection


OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY -  January 22, 2001

Across America there has been a groundswell of support for former President Clinton's announcement that protected more than 60 million acres of roadless wilderness in U.S. National Forests (for extended archived coverage see http://forests.org/forests/america.html).

There exists overwhelming bipartisan support for protection of America's last large and natural forest landscapes. America's new President may yet choose to try to overturn this designation. But it will prove extremely difficult, time consuming and politically costly. A Bush move to reverse conservation of the last intact and uniquely American landscapes would define clearly and unequivocally that a Bush Presidency is no friend of the Planet, and indicate he is unsympathetic to public sentiment to which he disagrees. If President Bush makes this a priority, it is likely to become an albatross around this young administration's neck. President Bush must be called upon to honor the forest protections the American public has said it wants.

Please send a greeting to America's new President, and insist upon protection for America's last great natural landscapes. Your email does not need to be long, and should preferably be in your own words, but here is a sample letter and additional background information to draw upon:


President George W. Bush

Dear President Bush,

I wish to welcome you to your new position of President of the United States, as well as Chief Steward of America's Environment. I have great expectations that you will live up to pledges to be President to all Americans, and to be a uniter and not a divider. Ensuring that America's last intact and unique forest landscapes are given protection - something that the vast majority of American's support - would provide an opportunity to demonstrate these words. I am writing to insist that you not pursue, nor support, efforts to overturn the roadless area protections in national forests instituted by former President Clinton. The decision was made on the basis of local meetings in hometowns all over the country, and a genuine effort was made to allow those that wished to speak to do so. Some 600 meetings were held and two million comments were received, virtually all of which favored strong protection of roadless forests. Poll after poll has shown overwhelming bipartisan support for protection of America's last roadless forest wildernesses. It is known by science that large and intact forest ecosystems provide innumerable ecological and economic benefits. Please choose roadless protection as a means to demonstrate your commitment to both America's environment and aspirations of its citizens. Failure to maintain roadless area protections would be a grave and early mistake by your administration, and may well become the first serious blunder for which your Presidency is remembered.

Best wishes,


Title: Road Republicans should take leads to the protection of forests
Source: Copyright 2001 Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: January 17, 2001
By: Commentary by Jim Scarantino

Even before the U.S. Forest Service published its final decision on the policy to protect roadless areas in national forests, congressional critics were sharpening the long knives -- or should we say axes?

Some Republicans have indicated they will use any procedural roadblock, any interpretation of obscure law, and any specious argument necessary to derail the plan. But opposing forest protection would not only be a political mistake for the GOP and the new Bush administration, it would be bad policy as well. One key point of attack will be a never-tested law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Passed in the aftermath of earlier failed attempts to roll back environmental, health, and safety protections, CRA allows Congress to challenge new executive branch rules. In their effort to block forest conservation, Sen. Larry Craig (R., Idaho) and Sen. Frank Murkowski (R., Alaska), as well as Rep. Don Young (R., Alaska), have stated they intend to invoke not only this law, but another obscure measure called the Truth in Regulating Act.

Other Republicans are lining up for their shot at the forest conservation measure. Rep. James Hansen (R., Utah), new chairman of the House Resources Committee, wrote to President-elect Bush asking for "any assistance" in halting the roadless policy, while Rep. John Peterson (R., Pa.), a member and possible chair of the House Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee, has said, "I will do everything in my power to stop it."

Yet the policy being savaged represents all that's best about conservatism in America. It's fiscally responsible. It came about through massive local input. And it preserves a priceless heritage. Those who benefit the most from roads through forests are the extractive industries: logging, mining and drilling. In what amounts to corporate welfare and a taxpayer ripoff, the public has spent a fortune to build and maintain at least 383,000 miles of forest roads, more than eight times all the interstate highway miles put together. Yet the backlog for repairs on these roads totals over $8 billion. And even though less than 4 percent of our lumber now comes from national forests, the Forest Service managed to lose $1 billion on timber sales over a five-year period. No fiscally conservative Republican should attack a policy that promises to rein in such waste and special-interest favoritism.

The roadless-area decisions were also done in the right way, through input not from highly paid Washington lobbyists but from regular people who went to local meetings in their hometowns all over the country. Over the three-year period in which the Forest Service developed the policy, about 600 meetings were held, more than have ever been held for public comment on any rule. Everybody who cared had a chance to speak about it, from New Mexico to New Hampshire. The policy also received nearly 2 million comments, virtually all of which favored strong protection of roadless forests. Poll after poll has shown overwhelming bipartisan support. Trusting the people, as George W. Bush promised to do, means honoring the forest protections the American public has said it wants. By protecting roadless areas, finally, we act to preserve something for our children that could never be reclaimed, once it was lost. Already, more than half of our national forests are accessible by road and open to logging, mining and drilling. If we fail to shield the remainder from senseless and wasteful activities, we risk a slow but steady loss that would undermine a proud history of Republican conservation efforts.

It would be foolish for Congress and the new administration to start their environmental track record by promoting profligacy and loss of something so precious. Americans of both parties want protection for our last remaining wild places. Ignoring these wishes by undermining the roadless policy would be hazardous to GOP political health and a tragedy for the generations to follow us.