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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TO NATIONAL DESK, ENVIRONMENT REPORTER
DIVERSE GROUPS VOW VIGOROUS OPPOSITION TO ADMINISTRATION'S NATIONAL FOREST ASSAULT
Allied Voices Pledge Million Public Comments
WASHINGTON, DC, July 22, 2004 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- Groups representing hunters and anglers and environmentalists formally announced plans to mount a unified effort opposing the Administration's changes to national forest policies announced last week. Leaders for these diverse groups vowed to draw a million public comments in opposition to the rollback, and groups around the country are holding a series of events in a number of states to urge citizens to write the US Forest Service.
"The Bush Administration is out of touch with the vast majority of Americans who want our last pristine National Forests protected," said Robert Vandermark, co-director of Heritage Forests Campaign (HFC). "When their mailboxes are jammed with letters overwhelmingly opposing their special interest giveaway, we hope they will get the message."
"We're very disappointed that the Bush administration has decided yet again to act against the interests of American sportsmen and women on roadless protection. Roadless area protection is a bellwether issue for hunter and angler conservationists," said Steve Moyer, vice president for government affairs and volunteer operations at Trout Unlimited (TU). "Failure to protect these special places puts at risk some of the very best hunting and fishing areas in the country, so you can bet our members will be extremely active during the comment period."
On July 16, 2004, the Administration announced a 60-day comment period for public input on their plan to overturn the Roadless Area Conservation Rule that protects the last wild roadless areas in our national forests from logging and road-building. The Administration plans to replace the rule with a process that allows governors to petition for protection of roadless areas in their states - or for more logging, mining and drilling.
"Let us be clear: this proposal effectively ends national protections for roadless areas of National Forests," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, conservation advocate for US PIRG. "The day this proposal takes effect, millions of acres of our last wild forests enjoyed America's hunters and anglers will be immediately at risk."
The Roadless Rule, which went into effect in 2001, protects nearly 60 million acres of National Forests from roadbuilding. This represents about 31 percent of the National Forest system. Fifty-one percent of National Forests have already been opened to commercial activity.
In local events in 15 states, activists are calling on the Forest Service to hold local public meetings, as they did during the drafting of the roadless rule when they held 600 meetings. To date, the Forest Service has yet to schedule any local hearings to consider the new rule. The events are being held in: Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington State and Wisconsin.
"With the stroke of a pen, the Bush administration has radically altered policy regarding National Forests," said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). "One week ago, a policy was in effect to protect 58 million forest acres from road building. Today, outside designated wilderness areas, not a single acre of National Forest lands is secure against the threat of new road building. This administration's priorities are wrong in replacing a plan that truly protected our forests with a plan that protects nothing."
Dozens of newspaper editorials have decried the Administration's proposal in recent days. The Roadless Rule has already gone through a thorough public and scientific process, and roadless protection has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress. One hundred and eighty-five members of Congress voted last year to codify the Roadless Rule, and last month an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill to stop subsidies for building roads in Alaska's Tongass National Forest was approved in the House by a vote of 222-205.
"We believe that protecting roadless areas is 100 percent consistent with traditional Republican values of fiscal responsibility, sound economics, and environmental stewardship," said Martha Marks, president of REP America. "Republicans also believe government ought to listen to the millions of citizens who have spoken up strongly for protecting roadless areas in national forests that all of us own."
Citizens can submit comments to the Forest Service via the Internet by visiting http://actionnetwork.org/campaign/bush_giveaway/.
For more information on the roadless rule and the Bush Administration rollbacks, visit http://www.ourforests.org;
CONTACT: T.W. Grand, TU, 703-284-9426; Tony Iallonardo, HFC, 202-887-8855; or Tiernan Sittenfeld, US PIRG, 202-546-9707.