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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Staff Thoughts: "Time-Out" on Roadless

Posted by Terry Fernsler

Welcome to Washington Wilderness Coalition’s blog! This is the forum to discuss the remarkable wild lands and free-flowing waters in Washington, problem-solve protecting them, and asking questions about them.

It’s good day for us to launch our blog—Today Agriculture Secretary Vilsak announced a “timeout” on new road building and other development in designated roadless areas on National Forest lands. WWC has been working with a national coalition to push for this since the Obama administration took office.

Former President Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule shortly before leaving office in 2001, which protects nearly 60 million acres of national forest land from logging and other development. Former President Bush let the rule stand, but continually tried to undercut it by exempting large areas and allowing states to establish their own set of rules (often opening up forests to development).

Our National Forests are a shared treasure, owned in common by all Americans. Presently, over half of all our National Forests have had roads cut through them and have been logged, mined or drilled. Only 18% of our National Forests are protected as either wilderness or National Park.

The remaining third of our National Forests are considered "roadless." These are areas that have not already had roads built through them and have not been logged, mined or drilled. These roadless forests are the last remaining wild forests left in the United States. In Washington state we have a little over 2 million acres of roadless National Forests remaining. These roadless forests provide many benefits. They are the source of safe clean drinking water for more than 60 million Americans. They provide essential habitat for threatened and endangered species. They provide the vast majority of National Forest lands where people go to hike, backpack, camp, canoe or kayak, birdwatch, ride horses in the backcountry, fish and hunt.

Since 2001, an epic struggle has been underway to decide the fate of these forests. Both locally and nationally, Washington Wilderness Coalition has been a leader in efforts to preserve our roadless forests as a legacy for future generations.

The “timeout” announced by the Department of Agriculture today is an indication that the new administration is looking in a different direction, one that considers our future. Tell us what you think about the timeout and protecting roadless areas.

-Terry Fernsler, Executive Director

Click here to review the Resolution, local elected and stakeholder support, and more on the Roadless Rule