Obama intervenes to protect pristine forests

May 28, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Wilderness Society hailed a key step the Obama administration announced today that will help protect nearly 49 million acres of unroaded national forests that have remained under assault by actions of former President Bush.

“We’re glad to see President Obama taking the first step toward fulfilling the pledge he made during his campaign to protect our roadless forests,” said TWS President William H. Meadows. “His decision begins to reverse eight years of Bush administration attempts to dismantle environmental protections for national forests. Our roadless forests safeguard clean drinking water for millions of Americans, provide recreational opportunities, protect habitat for wildlife, and provide a defense against the increasing threats of global warming.”

The Obama administration is issuing an interim directive that would stop local forest supervisors from approving future development projects on roadless forests without consent from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The goal is to limit the ability of local supervisors to greenlight road building, mining and logging projects in all states with roadless forests except Idaho. The idea for this “time out” is supported by countless conservation organizations and by many members of Congress, including 25 senators and 121 representatives who recently wrote Vilsack to make that request.

TWS commends President Obama for reinstating protection and greater oversight of roadless forests. The organization continues to believe the roadless rule is a national rule that should cover all forests including the 9.3 million acres in the state of Idaho.

“We will work with the Obama administration to try to reinstate nationwide protection including Idaho,” said TWS National Forest Program Director Michael Francis. “The interim directive issued today does represent change we can believe in.”


Background: The 2001 roadless rule was an administrative rule approved by the Clinton administration after years of scientific study and public input. It became the most popular rule in U.S. history. (More than 1.7 million people submitted comments to the government in support of the rule.) The rule originally protected some 58.5 million acres of unroaded forests, keeping them free from road building, logging, mining and other destructive activities. For most of the past eight years, the rule that has protected these forests – the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule – has survived on-going legal attacks and administrative maneuvers by the former Bush administration. Conservation organizations and people across the country have joined forces to repel these attempts to weaken protection for our roadless forests. Until today, the numerous court battles and attacks from the Bush administration had left the majority of roadless forests vulnerable to road building and logging.

Learn more: Visit http://wilderness.org/campaigns/roadless-forests