Bush Administration Backs Roadless Rule, Proposes Amendments

Washington, DC, May 4, 2001- The Competitive Enterprise Institute is urging the Bush administration to set a tight timetable for local forest review of the roadless rule, a U.S. Forest Service regulation that would severely restrict opportunities for effective management and accessible recreation in national forests.  Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced today that the existing rule, which forbids road building over 58.5 million acres of federal forest land, would remain in force until Forest Service planners can complete their reviews with additional local inputs.

“I am concerned that the Administration has decided to leave the Clinton roadless rule in place,” said CEI senior fellow Dr. Robert H. Nelson.  “The Administration has tried to split the difference but the result will be to continue the dysfunctional system of political decision making that has produced gridlock on the national forests for a full decade.  The only winners from this system are the people who oppose management in any form.”  The roadless rule could remain in place for up to ten years in some areas until the next round of revisions to land use plans are completed for all of the national forests. 

It was a lack of effective forest management in the 1990s that contributed to the severe forest fires over the West in 2000.   The result was not only the more than $1.5 billion spent for fire suppression and control but also significant damage to the forest and water environment in many of the areas burned.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service said they will propose amendments to the roadless rule by June to address problems in the original rule making.  The amendments will set out a new process by which individual national forests can review and make changes to the roadless designations.  Dr. Nelson called on the Forest Service “avoid one-size-fits-all solutions and to give local citizens a real chance to contribute to forest decisions in their areas.”  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

Six lawsuits had been filed in various federal courts to stop or delay implementation of the rule, including Idaho.  A federal court in Boise will consider the views of the Bush administration before making a decision on the lawsuit filed there, which also has been joined by Colorado.

Available for interviews on the roadless rule and federal land management:

Dr. Robert H. Nelson, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is the author of three books on public land management, including A Burning Issue: The Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service.

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