A new report by our national federation, Environment America, reveals that nearly 90,000 acres of undeveloped national forest areas across the country that support clean water and critical wildlife have scheduled logging projects moving forward. Forests in Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Colorado are among those scheduled for commercial logging starting this spring right under the nose of the new administration.
“Even though we have a new environmental president, holdovers from the Bush administration are quietly paving paradise and undermining protections for our last roadless national forests,” said Nicole Gentile, Environment Montana's National Preservation Associate. President Obama supported protecting these forests as a candidate, and Environment America is calling on Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to call an immediate “time out” for our forests until the embattled Roadless Area Conservation Rule can be reinstated.
Environment America analyzed government documents and discovered that timber sales and pre-roading projects are moving forward in roadless national forests. In one egregious example, a timber sale threatens to destroy 1,515 acres of the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon. The Umpqua is named for its thundering waters and supports more than 250 species of wildlife including the northern spotted owl.
Some of the areas Environment America researched are currently protected by the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which prohibits most road building. Other areas were previously protected by the Roadless Rule, but they now have questionable protection after years of court cases and policy changes brought on by the Bush administration. The report Quietly Paving Paradise: How Bush Policies Still Threaten National Forests, does not detail every potential project. Instead, it looks at the projects farthest along in the planning process and ready to go in the coming months.
In conjunction with the report release, leaders of the conservation community sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack urging the Administration to take immediate action to preserve our last undeveloped national forestland. The letter echoes the sentiment of almost 150 members of Congress who sent similar letters earlier this month.
In January of 2001, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was signed into law in order to protect 58.5 million acres of national forests from road building associated with logging, mining, and drilling. The Roadless Rule was the result of more than 1.6 million public comments—over 95 percent of which supported protecting these forests. However, the past eight years of legal and administration challenges have culminated in the logging and road-building projects outlined in this report.
Environmental groups, hunters and anglers, and local stakeholders have defended the Roadless Rule for years. Only seven miles of roads have been built in roadless areas since 2001. Most projects initiated under the Bush administration are just now going forward.
“We need Secretary Vilsack to call a ‘time out’ before forests across the country are lost,” Gentile continued. “After all, with forests you don’t get a second chance. Once they are gone, they are gone forever,” Gentile concluded.