Forest Service releases impact statement for roadless ban

Published July 1, 2000

The U.S. Forest Service released on May 9 its proposed Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) regarding the Clinton-Gore administration’s plan to ban road construction on up to 60 million acres of National Forests. The DEIS pleased neither loggers nor environmentalists.

Observed W. Henson Moore, president and CEO of the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA), “according to the Forest Service, the National Forest System is experiencing the worst health crisis in its history, with 65 million acres–one-third of our National Forest System–at catastrophic risk of wildfire, insect infestation, and disease. Yet, rather than embracing a scientific approach to manage those lands, the Forest Service today has issued a DEIS which would wall off more than 60 million acres.”

As reported in the May issue of Environment & Climate News, the Heritage Forests Campaign (HFC), funded primarily by Pew Foundation grants through the National Audubon Society, helped the White House develop its roadless plan, including drafting legal memoranda and conducting surveys to support the roadless agenda. Nevertheless, HFC director Ken Rait lashed out at the DEIS.

“What the Forest Service has delivered is a proposal with log truck-sized loopholes,” Rait said. “President Clinton must renew his commitment to world forest protection and get the Forest Service on the right path if he hopes to rescue his conservation legacy and our wild forests.”

Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Idaho) questioned the sincerity of the environmentalists’ reaction. “Environmentalists will no doubt use their standard ploy of attacking the Administration’s proposal for ‘not going far enough’ in order to make it appear that the proposal is balanced,” she noted. “But the truth is, the environmental community wrote the proposal.”

The Forest Service proposal would “prohibit road construction and reconstruction in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas” 5,000 acres or larger. It would allow local forest managers to “evaluate the quality and importance of roadless characteristics.” Those managers also would “determine whether and how to protect the [roadless characteristics] in the context of multiple-use objectives.”

A decision to prohibit new roads in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska would be postponed by the DEIS until April 2004. This disappointed the EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund, whose spokesperson, Buck Parker said, “A final policy should immediately protect all National Forest roadless areas from all logging and must include Alaska’s Tongass Rainforest.”

The forestry community views the DEIS as an assault on rural Americans and their way of life. “With our national forests growing 600 percent more wood than is being removed, and with wildfire threatening one in every three acres, what happened to common sense in this country?” asked the AFPA’s Moore. The association, representing more than 250 companies that engage in the manufacture of pulp, paper, and wood products, warned that the administration’s roadless plan “sounds the death knell for the health of our national forests and signals an attack on rural America.”

Environmentalists are encouraging their followers to express disapproval of the proposal by calling or writing the Forest Service or by attending one of the local meetings to be held to receive public comment. William Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society, said, “Unless the American people make their views known, an opportunity for one of the most significant American land protection initiatives in almost a century will be squandered.”

The proposed DEIS is open to public comment for 60 days, and public meetings will be held in most National Forest communities.

For more information

The proposed rule, DEIS, maps, and a schedule of upcoming public meetings are available on the Internet at

Information is also available at the toll-free information number, 800/384-7623.

Written public comments can be faxed to 877/703-2494 or mailed to USDA Forest Service-CAET. Attention: Roadless Area Proposed Rule, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122. Comments must be received by July 17, 2000.