Clinton-era roadless rule may become law after all |

Clinton-era roadless rule may become law after all

The same week the White River National Forest declared that 400,000 acres of roadless areas could be open to logging, congressional legislators say they are introducing a bill that would protect those lands and a total of 58 million acres nationwide.

The measure would make law the roadless rule unveiled by former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck in 2001, during the Clinton administration.

The Bush administration has backed away from the measure, which would have prohibited road-building in roadless areas. Last year Federal District Court Judge Edward Lodge issued an injunction against the rule, saying it was flawed and inadequate.

The new WRNF forest plan, released Tuesday, identified 640,000 acres of roadless areas. Besides allocating 82,000 acres for possible wilderness designation, it will make another 122,500 acres off-limits to motorized use. The rest, 400,000 acres, remains open for possible logging and road-building, environmentalists say.

They also say the new plan calls for a 40 percent increase in expected logging levels over the draft plan, which itself was one of the more aggressive draft alternatives considered when it came to logging.

WRNF supervisor Martha Ketelle said the forest’s roadless approach is consistent with the interim roadless direction handed down from the national Forest Service chief.

Environmental groups are coming out in support of the new congressional legislation, while U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, opposes it.

Trout Unlimited said in a prepared statement, “In place of substantive protection of roadless areas, the Forest Service has issued a series of directives that significantly diminish or altogether eliminate roadless area protection. The roadless bill under consideration by the House of Representatives would implement the rule as it was written in 2001.”

McInnis, who is chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, opposes the move.

“It is nothing short of astonishing that national environmental groups and certain elected officials in Washington, D.C., continue to push the rule in the face of a federal judge’s injunction,” McInnis said.

He maintains the Clinton administration measure was developed without adherence to the required public input process.

“The Clinton administration turned a deaf ear to the folks in western communities who condemned the roadless rule-making process as a pre-ordained sham and spent the better part of eight years ignoring those voices out West,” McInnis said.

In a letter to President Bush Wednesday, McInnis urged him to hold public hearings on the issue, particularly in the communities that would be affected by the rule.

Colorado’s two Democratic members of Congress, Diana DeGette, of Denver, and Mark Udall, of Boulder, both support the bill, which reportedly has the backing of nearly 200 in Congress.

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