A decade after it was first adopted by the U.S. Forest Service, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule has proven to be remarkably successful in protecting the 58.5 million acres of national forest roadless areas from road building and logging.
America’s western public lands harbor a wealth of beauty, wildness, and open space. They protect our clean air and water, provide habitat for wildlife, and offer us places to escape the pressure, noise, and congestion of everyday life. These places are our national birthright and our children’s heritage.
The Obama administration issued proposed guidelines Thursday for solar development on public lands in the West, a move that could speed renewable energy projects that have been mired in environmental controversy.
The detailed analysis, known as a Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, identifies 24 "solar energy zones" in six states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said would be most suited "for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production."
“He could cancel the Roan leases tomorrow,” says Mike Freeman, an attorney representing environmental groups and sportsmen who are suing to stop drilling on the Roan. “He has that authority. But so far, their position has been the same as the last administration’s.”
In 2003, Gale Norton, then the secretary of the interior, and Michael Leavitt, then the governor of Utah, struck a deal that removed federal protections from about 2.6 million acres of public land in Utah that the Clinton administration had designated as potential wilderness. At the same time, Ms. Norton disavowed her department’s longstanding authority to identify, study and recommend new areas for wilderness protection.
"The environmentalists have been waiting in the wings for eight years," said Paul Lewis, assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University. "Now, they have a chance to be heard again."
On Monday, President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, placing more than 2 million acres of public land in nine states under Wilderness Act protection. The new legislation preserves remote glacial valleys in Wyoming, fragile deserts in California and dense forests in northern Michigan, making these and other tracts of pristine land permanently off-limits to road building, oil and gas drilling and commercial timber harvesting.