Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has issued what amounts to a one-year moratorium on commercial activity in the most sensitive areas of the national forests. This is a welcome reprieve, but it is only a first step. These areas need the complete and permanent protection that President Bill Clinton had in mind when he signed the so-called roadless rule in 2001.
…For starters, it should harmonize its legal and policy positions. The Justice Department is still steadfastly defending the weaker Bush policy in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is completely inconsistent with the president’s position.
Then the administration should think about enlarging the scope of the Clinton rule to include Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, parts of which have long been coveted by the timber industry. Some environmentalists also think that a new inventory of the national forests would turn up even more areas deserving of protection.
Once a new rule is written, Mr. Obama should submit it in legislative form to Congress, which should then make it the law of the land. That is the best way to protect these valuable wild lands.