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July 21, 2004

The Roadless Traveled

The other day I got email from Maria Cantwell's office. I had to think about it for a while because I didn't really understand the impact of what she was talking about. (Note to Maria: I'm not a total pinhead, but I felt like I had to read this mail several times to find out what the problem is. Could you get some staffers who cut to the chase? "Roadless areas are in danger. Here's why..." Is that so much to ask?)

Here's the deal as I understand it. (The original mail is below.)

'Roadless areas' are no longer automatically protected - each state has to opt-in to the program. The state is responsible for presenting their plan for conservation, then USFS decides, state by state, how that roadless area will be managed.

The other day I got email from Maria Cantwell's office. I had to think about it for a while because I didn't really understand the impact of what she was talking about. (Note to Maria: Hire staffers who cut to the chase when they write your mail. We're busy and overloaded with information, and probably have ADD.)

Here's the deal as I understand it. (The original mail is below.)

'Roadless areas' are no longer automatically protected - each state has to opt-in to the program. The state is responsible for presenting their plan for conservation, then USFS decides, state by state, how that roadless area will be managed.

What's the problem? We have a plan already and according to Senator Cantwell, it works fine. And this opens the door for revisiting access to currently protected areas.

You can read more about the proposed ruling here. Don't be fooled by the language about how this is a "Plan to conserve roadless areas."

The Forest Service is taking comments right now. Overwhelming support by the American people helped put the last roadless area plan in place. Comments now can stop this new plan. You can get information about where to send your comments on the roadless areas site.

You can see Washington's roadless areas here.

And here's Senator Cantwell's mail:

Thank you for contacting me in the past with your thoughts on the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Knowing of your interest, I am writing you today to report a significant change recently announced by the United States Forest Service (USFS) to replace the protections provided by the Roadless Rule with a state petition process.

On July 12, 2004 Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced plans to develop a new rule that would replace the 2001 Roadless Rule with an "opt-in" state-by-state petition process. Under this new proposal, governors must petition the USFS to develop and establish rules that set parameters for conserving roadless areas in their respective states. State petitions would be given 18 months from the effective date of the final rule to be submitted and would identify areas for inclusion and exclusion. Once a state has completed its petition, the USFS would initiate a subsequent State-specific rulemaking for the management of inventoried roadless areas.

I find this proposal unfortunate and unnecessary. The 2001 Roadless Rule was a balanced policy that provided the U.S. Forest Service with the flexibility needed to conduct hazardous fuels reduction activities to protect forest health and rural communities, as well as build new roads in order to protect public safety within inventoried roadless areas. The 2001 Rule also ensures that our national forests will continue to provide clean drinking water for millions of Americans, critical wildlife habitats, and irreplaceable recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, and hiking.

In addition, the 2001 Rule was thoroughly vetted and enthusiastically supported by the American people. When developing the rule, the U.S. Forest Service conducted an extensive public process, including three years of official review and citizen participation, over 600 public meetings, and hearings on each National Forest and in each Forest Service region. In fact, the proposal garnered over 2.5 million positive comments, more than any other federal rule in history.

The proposed rule will be published by the Federal Register later this week and is available at: www.fs.fed.us. A 60-day public comment period has been established and written comments on the proposed rule may be mailed to: Content Analysis Team, ATTN: Roadless State Petitions, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122; faxed to (801) 517-1014; or e-mailed to statepetitionroadless@fs.fed.us. Comments also may be submitted through the web site http://www.regulations.gov. The Forest Service will issue a final rule after it evaluates public comments.

I encourage you to share your views with the Forest Service on this important issue. I appreciate your taking the time to share your opinion on this issue with me in the past,and I will keep you updated on future developments.

Sincerely,

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

Posted by pam at July 21, 2004 06:14 AM | TrackBack
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Comments

It seems like I've been hearing a lot about this on NPR, with some calling it an abdication of responsibility by the federal government in that they release control of national resources. Someone else pointed out that wilderness does not respect state lines and requires or deserves holistic management that only the federal government could provide.

Next action: write the Forest Service and your federal representatives.

Posted by: Gary on July 21, 2004 10:48 AM
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