Obama to join ranks of our roadless forest heroes?

I had the honor Monday of joining two of my heroes — former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck and U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva from Arizona — to share with reporters what steps we would like to see the Obama Administration take to protect our nation’s roadless forests. Recent court rulings favored by President Bush and his oil-and-gas-industry cronies have inserted what we hope is just a temporary sliver into protection for areas that play a critical role in improving the quality of life for people and safeguarding habitat for wildlife.

Grijalva, chairman of the House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, noted that our incoming president is already a champion of these values. Obama co-sponsored legislation that would permanently protect America’s unroaded forests when he was a senator and he often mentioned their importance as a presidential candidate. Now that he’s set to take office in a week, The Wilderness Society and many of our friends in the conservation community including the Pew Environment Group can move from addressing the question of whether a new president will protect these pristine forests to how he will do so.

Our immediate focus is on asking the new administration to make it a lot more difficult for the still Bush-heavy Forest Service to approve any projects that would destroy the integrity of our roadless forests. This can be accomplished by stipulating that any destructive activities such as road building, logging, oil and gas development, and mining be reviewed by an Obama appointee rather than allowing such decisions to be made by the Forest Service at the local level.

There are two other items we will work with the administration to accomplish in the short-term. (The phrase “working with the administration” is a refreshing change after the last eight years.) As we all told reporters yesterday, we would like President Obama to:

  • Require the Department of Justice to vigorously defend our roadless forests in the various on-going court cases that we hope will result in a victory for the millions of people who care so deeply about roadless areas.
  • End the temporary exemption from the national roadless rule that Bush placed on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

All three of the principles I’ve mentioned here are expressed in The Roosevelt Resolution, a request to help our forests that honors the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt. By clicking on the link above, you can also listen to yesterday’s press conference so that you can hear directly from the roadless rule architect, Mr. Dombeck, and one of our most courageous public lands advocates, Rep. Grijalva.

I don’t think it will take you long to discern why they’re heroes of mine, or why protecting our roadless forests is so close to all of our hearts.

Comments