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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Administration Eases Protections on Roadless Forests

John Muir: Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed, chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man's life only saplings can be grown, in place of old trees— tens of centuries old— that have been destroyed. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods,— trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time — and long before that — God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from fools — only Uncle Sam can do that.

New Rule Opens National Forest to Roads, May 5, AP: The last 58.5 million acres of untouched national forests … were opened to possible logging, mining and other commercial uses by the Bush administration on Thursday…

Those of us who live in the northwest can see first-hand that the remaining old growth forests need more, not less protection. I understand that there is a need to log some forests and that managed properly forests are a sustainable resource. But as the following editorial notes there are vast tracts of second- and third- growth forests available to serve that purpose. In addition, these are public forests, not the large amount of private forestland held by lumber companies and others. However, the Bush administration is easing protections for roadless federal forests in spite of public opposition:

A dead end in the woods, The Oregonian The only thing the Bush administration will reopen for sure by rolling back protections for roadless forests is the bitter and counterproductive debate over logging the last remaining old-growth and remote forests in Oregon and the West. The administration can keep asking the public and prodding governors, but … A large majority of Americans do not want to see the last intact sections of national forests cut up with roads, logged or mined.

We have supported many Bush administration efforts to return some semblance of balance to management of federal forests … But roadless areas, many of them municipal watersheds, important wildlife areas and remnant stands of old-growth trees, are not the places to put Oregon loggers back to work. The fight over roadless forests is a costly and unnecessary diversion. The future of the Northwest timber industry is not in the last stands of old growth … It is in thinning and active management of the vast tracts of second- and third-growth trees that cover most of the lower elevation -- and already roaded -- forests. …

The administration's new plan for roadless areas gives governors 18 months to tell the Forest Service how they would like to see these areas managed, but the federal agency retains the final say … Maybe that amounts to more "local control," as the administration claims, but it looks more like fobbing the political pressure off on governors and creating another excuse for a tired debate about roadless areas. … The public will say again that it wants the state's roadless areas protected.

… It is laughable that the Bush administration is casting its rollback of President Clinton's roadless rule as useful to gather more comment, and more local knowledge, about roadless areas. Westerners have spoken loud and clear. More than 4 million people have commented on roadless-area policy -- more than on any federal rule in American history. But the Bush administration, pretending that it has not heard a thing, keeps driving down this dead end.

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