Tags: Locals | Have | Say | Roadless | Areas

Locals to Have Say on Roadless Areas

Friday, 04 May 2001 12:00 AM

``Our proposed approach will maintain the protection of the current roadless rule while addressing the reasonable concerns about the rule,'' Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman told reporters. The U.S. Forest Service is part of the USDA.

Veneman said the Forest Service would propose changes next month to the rule, which would spell out how local residents, companies and forest managers could modify the road ban in their own area. The proposal would be followed by a public comment period of at least 60 days.

Some communities, for example, are concerned about controlling wildfires if roads cannot be built for fire-fighting equipment. ``We are trying to create an approach that is very balanced with more local input,'' Veneman added.

The decision might not directly effect six lawsuits against the government that aim to stop the roadless-area regulation, and a federal judge in Idaho might halt implementation before the May 12 starting date.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge, in a suit filed by Boise Cascade Corp., said last month the process used by the Clinton administration to develop the rule was ``grossly inadequate'' and failed to provide the public enough time to respond.

Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said: "I've been with the Forest Service for 35 years, and we've been struggling with the roadless rule for that whole time. ... I don't want to imply that we have the magic answer yet."

Veneman and Bosworth indicated that under the rule changes they have in mind, changes in forest plans would be approved at a local level. This will allow roadless areas to be either elected or discarded in any of the national forests and will effectively end any national roadless plan.

Each of the approximately 150 national forests has traditionally taken local input when revising their plans. Although review occurs at the regional level and in Washington, plans usually bear a local imprint.

Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho said in a statement after the announcement, "The administration's decision to revise the rule is the first step in bringing justice to what the courts have found to be obvious violations of the National Environmental Policy Act."

In contrast, Democrat Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington said, "Given [the] level of public participation and support, I believe it will be extremely difficult for the administration to make any changes that people perceive as threatening those protections or weakening the Roadless Forest Protection Rule."

Reaction from forest communities and land-use advocates was curiously absent in the national news media, which trumpeted environmental special interests' angry denunciations of the announcement.

The roadless rule sets aside 90,000 square miles - about one-third - of national forest as officially roadless and off-limits to most development. The rule prohibits maintaining roads or building new ones, except under emergency conditions. Logging, mining and drilling are essentially prohibited.

The Forest Service defines an area as roadless if none of its travelways exceed 52 inches. The classification does not indicate whether the area represents pristine or already resource-managed land.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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``Our proposed approach will maintain the protection of the current roadless rule while addressing the reasonable concerns about the rule,'' Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman told reporters. The U.S. Forest Service is part of the USDA. Veneman said the Forest Service...
Locals,Have,Say,Roadless,Areas
508
2001-00-04
Friday, 04 May 2001 12:00 AM
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