Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Bush administration should not allow states to permit road-building in protected national forests

Why you're right:

1. It would pollute drinking water. Roadless areas in national forests are responsible for producing clean drinking water for millions of Americans. Protected areas of national forests serve as source areas for drinking water in 39 states. Erosion and landslides from roads can send "tons of silt and unwanted nutrients into forest streams." (Republicans for Environmental Protection)

2. It would be a huge taxpayer subsidy to the timber industry. A primary reason to build roads in forests is "to facilitate commercial logging." National forests already contain "over 380,000 miles of roads and 60,000 miles unmapped logging roads, enough to circle the globe 17 times." Taxpayers are have already "provided more than $116 million in direct subsidies to the timber industry for construction of logging roads at a cost of nearly $15,000 per mile." There is an existing $8.4 billion backlog of road maintenance. Removing the roadless rule "will only increase taxpayer subsidies to the timber industry and the price taxpayers must pay for long-term road maintenance." (Heritage Forests Campaign, Taxpayers for Common Sense)

3. It threatens the economies of Western states. Over 97% of roadless national forests are in 12 Western states. The environmental quality of the West underlies a quality of life that "contributes to robust economic growth by attracting productive families, firms and investments." There are "considerable economic benefits – recreation, high water quality, wildlife habitat...that public lands provide when they are undeveloped." Removing the protections of the roadless rule "would undermine one of the cornerstones of economic strength throughout the West." (Letter from Economists to President Bush)

Why they're wrong:

The administration claims that they are not eliminating the roadless rule but merely leaving the decision about how to handle the issue up to the states. But state governors do not have the expertise to make these decisions. This is why Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal calls the plan an "unfunded mandate... It means the state will have to develop significant expertise in forest planning that we don't really have." Its not about empowering states. Its about letting the logging, mining and energy industries take advantage of state governments. (The Wilderness Society)

A better idea:

Email the USDA at and tell them why we need to preserve the roadless rule.