Senate Bill Introduced to Codify Forest Roadless Plan; Plan Bans Building Roads for Fighting Forest Fires

 

DATE: July 25, 2002

BACKGROUND: Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John Warner (R-VA) reportedly plan to introduce legislation to implement the Roadless Area Conservation Rule developed under the Clinton Administration. The Rule would close 58.5 million acres of public land to road building, thereby denying access to these areas to nearly all Americans. Proponents of the rule claim it was the product of years of deliberation and input from 1.6 million people.

In fact, however, the plan was developed in less than a year and almost entirely in secret by a coalition of environment groups, known as the Heritage Forests Campaign, financed by the Pew Foundation via the Audubon Society.

Idaho U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge issued a temporary restraining order on May 10, 2001 prohibiting the U.S. Forest Service from implementing the roadless rule. He said, "the court conclusively finds that the comment period was grossly inadequate and thus deprived the public of any meaningful dialogue or input into the process." The Forest Service is in the process of developing alternative forest management plans.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: In the midst of one of the worst wildfire seasons, it's ludicrous that some senators want to ban roads that could help firefighters put out fires.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Judge Lodge was correct to delay a rule that was hastily and secretly formulated. Isn't it elitist for some senators to want to ban roads in forests that allow firefighters more access while Majority Leader Daschle wants exemptions from environmental laws and lawsuits exclusively for his home state?

DISCUSSION: A similar bill, HR. 4865, was introduced in June in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Chris Shays (R-CT). It has 178 co-sponsors.

From January 1999, right up to the time of President Clinton's 2000 State of the Union Address, the Heritage Forest Campaign worked with then Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck and the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, George Frampton, as well as others in the Clinton Administration to circumvent the normal rulemaking process. This meant there was less than a year left for public comment before the end of Clinton's term. Therefore, the judge had no choice to set the rule aside and the Bush Administration had no choice but to begin the process of developing alternative forest management plans. An article on Judge Lodge's opinion can be found at http://ens.lycos.com/ens/may2001/2001L-05-11-06.html .

 

by Gretchen Randall, Director
John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs
The National Center for Public Policy Research

Contact the author at: 773-857-5086 or [email protected]
The National Center for Public Policy Research, Chicago office
3712 North Broadway - PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613