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twochordcool
01-15-2008, 10:35 PM
Natural Resources Defense Council • Idaho Conservation League • Earthjustice American Lands Alliance • Center for Biological Diversity • The Lands Council • National Environmental Trust • Greater Yellowstone Coalition • Sierra Club • The Wilderness Society • Environment America • Defenders of Wildlife

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 20, 2007

CONTACT:
Dave Bard, National Environmental Trust, 202.486.4426
Jonathan Oppenheimer, Idaho Conservation League, 208.345.6942 x26
Caitlin Love Hills, American Lands Alliance, 202.547.9105
Tim Preso, Earthjustice, 406.586.9699, x24
Craig Noble, NRDC, 415.601.8235
Chris Lancette, The Wilderness Society, 202.429.2692

Statement from the Heritage Forests Campaign

On the Bush Administration’s Plan to Remove Protections for Idaho’s Roadless Areas

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration today released documents announcing its intention to remove protections for more than six million acres of roadless areas in the national forests of Idaho. Idaho’s roadless backcountry areas are some of the nation’s last intact national forests and this proposal would open the door to their development by corporate special interests.

“Protection of our nation’s pristine forests is critical to the preservation of our natural heritage. These wild areas contain watersheds that provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat and outstanding outdoor recreational opportunities that should be kept safe for generations to come.

“Last year, a federal judge struck down the Bush administration's attempt to remove protections for our nation’s wild forests. Today, 50 million acres of roadless national forests, in all states except Alaska, are protected from road construction and logging. Now, under the cover of the hectic holiday season, the administration is trying to open the door to new development in the roadless backcountry of Idaho’s national forests.

“America’s conservation organizations are united to defend our last wild forests in Idaho and throughout the nation. We strongly oppose the Bush administration’s last ditch efforts to sell out to the timber, oil and gas, and mining industries. If the administration gets its way, our country will lose some of the most peaceful and pristine places within our national forests. For example, releases of highly toxic selenium as a result of the proposed Smoky Canyon mine expansion into the Sage Creek roadless area in southeast Idaho threaten to decimate trout populations in those wild forests.

“Last year, the former governor of Idaho, James Risch, made a commitment to protect all but 500,000 acres of roadless forests in Idaho, which was widely hailed as a step in the right direction. Now, it seems as if the Bush administration has taken two steps backward. We should never allow these last intact forests to fall victim to corporate development."

###

Background

According to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released by the U.S. Forest Service, under the proposal, only one-third (3.2 million acres) of Idaho’s 9.3 million acres will be managed in a manner that retains “natural processes and roadless characteristics.” (DEIS 2.5 p. 72) Current law protects all 9.3 million acres of Idaho’s roadless backcountry. Six million acres, is an area roughly equivalent to the size of the state of Massachusetts.

The Draft Rule and DEIS, due out in the Federal Register this Friday, December 21, will start a public comment period that will last at least 90 days. During this time, the Forest Service will also begin a series of public meetings and hearings around Idaho and in Washington, D.C. To learn more, go to www.ourforests.org and roadless.fs.fed.us/idaho.shtml.

To find out more about the proposed Smoky Canyon mine expansion into Idaho’s Sage Creek roadless area, see www.earthjustice.org.

Also expected is the imminent release of a similar proposal regarding the management of roadless areas in the state of Colorado, coupled with the upcoming release of a revised land management plan for the Tongass National Forest.

twochordcool
01-15-2008, 10:42 PM
Environmentalists are warning that large portions of Idaho’s roadless national forest lands could be opened to development under a draft plan the U.S. Forest Service has released to guide management of those areas. One area potentially impacted by the plan could be the Pioneer Mountains Roadless Area.

Draft Idaho roadless rule sparks opposition

Conservationists say plan would allow development on 6 million acres statewide

by JASON KAUFFMAN

Environmentalists are warning that large portions of Idaho’s roadless national forest lands could be opened to development under a draft plan the U.S. Forest Service has released to guide management of those areas. One area potentially impacted by the plan could be the Pioneer Mountains Roadless Area, shown here just east of the Wood River Valley.
Click to enlarge (PDF)

Many of Idaho's most remote and pristine roadless national forest lands not designated as wilderness could be opened to logging, mining, road building and other development activities under a draft plan the U.S. Forest Service released to the public last Wednesday, state and national environmental groups warn.

These areas are popular with hikers, hunters, anglers and other backcountry recreationists, and include large portions of the densely forested Clearwater country in north-central Idaho as well as wildlife-rich areas in the eastern part of the state near Yellowstone National Park.

Closer to home in the mountains surrounding the Wood River Valley, environmentalists fear the plan would allow the development of roadless lands in areas like the Smoky Mountains northwest of Ketchum and the rugged Pioneer Mountains east of the valley.

"It's stark," said John McCarthy Idaho forest campaign director for the Wilderness Society.

At the center of the current brouhaha is a draft environmental impact statement released by the Forest Service on Wednesday. The draft EIS analyzes the environmental impacts of a series of recommendations included in an Idaho plan written by former Gov. and now Lt. Gov. Jim Risch. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter subsequently endorsed the plan after taking office.

Under a separate rule-making process that states can choose, Risch submitted Idaho's roadless-rule petition to the Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C., in 2006. Colorado officials are also using the same process to develop their own state-specific roadless rule for more than 4 million roadless acres.

Risch's plan is meant to replace the 2001 Clinton-era roadless rule, which was challenged by Idaho and several other Western states, thrown out by the Bush administration and, ultimately, reinstated in early 2007 by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco.

For now, the Clinton roadless rule remains in effect as the law of the land, even though it continues to be challenged by some politically conservative Western states. Under that rule, all 9.3 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in Idaho receive the same level of protection. Nationwide, the Clinton plan protected 58.5 million acres of roadless national forest lands in states ranging from Alaska to Maine to New Mexico.

Only in very limited circumstances, such as when fuels reduction is needed to protect rural communities, can forest managers authorize development activities inside roadless areas protected under the Clinton-era rule.

While many aspects of the Risch plan are included in the Forest Service's plan released last week, some are not. How significant the changes are and how adequately the new plan protects roadless lands in Idaho depends upon whom you ask.

During an interview last Friday, Risch said that except for a slight change in the language in one section of the Forest Service plan, the draft document tracks well with his petition. He added that he will be the state's lead-off witness at a meeting of the roadless area committee in Washington, D.C., scheduled for Jan. 16-17.

There, Risch said he will reiterate his desire to see Idaho's roadless areas protected.

"I am not backing down," he said.

Risch said the state's 251 distinct roadless areas are some of the most magnificent properties in Idaho.

"They deserve our attention and they're going to get it," he said.

Risch said he met with environmental leaders in Boise last week "to make certain they're in agreement" that Idaho's plan does what it should and so "we're all singing off the same sheet of music."

Despite Risch's assurances, it seems not all environmentalists are in agreement that the state plan does what he and other state leaders have said it does.

For them, the differences between the new plan and the Clinton rule, which they continue to support saying it's the best alternative, are both dramatic and troubling.

"I thought the 2001 rule was good," McCarthy said. "I thought it provided good flexibility."

Unlike the Clinton plan, the state's petition and the Forest Service's new draft rule would release varying amounts of roadless national forest land in Idaho to development. While Risch's proposal would have released just over 500,000 acres out of the state's 9.3 million acres to development, the Forest Service draft rule increases that amount to approximately 609,000 acres.

Both recent plans would reclassify those lands under a "general forest" management emphasis, which would allow activities like permanent road building, commercial logging and mining. Local areas designated under this general forest emphasis include 21,000 acres on the southern end of the 291,650-acre Pioneer Mountains Roadless Area and a small 700-acre portion of the 461,475-acre Boulder-White Clouds Roadless Area just south of Fourth of July Creek Road near Stanley, Forest Service maps indicate.

Environmentalists are also troubled by an aspect of the Forest Service draft rule that classifies another 5.2 million acres of roadless forestlands in the state under a "backcountry restoration" management emphasis. That designation would allow road building when such an action is "needed to protect public health and safety in cases of significant risk or imminent threat of flood, fire, or other catastrophic event," the draft plan states.

Locally, areas designated under the backcountry restoration emphasis include portions of the Pioneer Mountains Roadless Area on its north and east sides that fall within the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Also included in this designation is the high-elevation Railroad Ridge area near Clayton and portions of the 346,499-acre Smoky Mountains Roadless Area near the Salmon River headwaters and in the Frenchman Creek, Smiley Creek and Beaver Creek areas.

Road building would also be allowed in areas designated under backcountry restoration emphasis "to facilitate forest health activities permitted under timber cutting, sale, or removal," the draft plan states.

The latter language, which the Clinton-era rule does not include, troubles environmentalists who fear that it could justify the opening of backcountry areas to unneeded development activities.

In explaining the rationale for the new language, the draft Forest Service plan states that the change in the text is focused on allowing forest-health activities when necessary "to perform expedited hazardous fuel treatment in backcountry areas at significant risk of wildfire and insect and disease epidemics."

While the Forest Service plan states that these exceptions are primarily focused on allowing projects near "at-risk communities," it also says that access inside roadless areas would be allowable where "the existence or imminent threat of an insect or disease epidemic is significantly threatening ecosystem components or resource values that may contribute to significant risk of wildland fire."

Changes like these are what most worry conservationists.

McCarthy said the Forest Service plan's heavy focus on mitigating wildfire threats could justify projects taking place in the middle of roadless areas far away from any at-risk communities. Saying the forests of Idaho are wildfire-dependent ecosystems, he said the new plan is just an excuse to develop roadless lands under the guise of forest health.

"We want wildland fires," he said.

While McCarthy didn't go so far as to say that the new plan would immediately lead to a whole new wave of logging in roadless areas, he said it would mean a new beginning for roadless-area logging projects in roadless areas managed as general forest and backcountry restoration areas. He said that during the 1990s, the Forest Service offered at least 100 timber sales in roadless areas statewide annually.

"I know we'll get some of them back," he said. "Why not? There's six million acres that get less protection (than under the Clinton plan)."

Not opened to development under the new draft plan would be about 3.2 million acres of roadless national forest lands in Idaho. Management of these areas would fall under two different designations—wildland recreation and primitive—which generally forbid any development activity except in the most limited of cases. Locally, areas designated as either wildland recreation or primitive include the higher and more western portions of the Pioneer Mountains Roadless Area, large areas of the White Cloud Mountains and much of the Smoky Mountains.

Though statements by Risch and others contend that the draft Idaho plan would fully protect the state's roadless areas, Forest Service documents seem to indicate otherwise.

In a series of tables included in the draft EIS, the Forest Service spells out the differences between the Clinton-era roadless rule and the draft Idaho rule. In terms of how the different plans protect non-commodity values—namely "acres retaining natural processes and roadless characteristics"—the tables state that all of Idaho's 9.3 million acres of roadless national forest land would remain as such under the Clinton roadless rule.

On the other hand, the tables state that the new Idaho-specific roadless rule would only retain natural processes and roadless characteristics on 3.2 million acres, the same number of acres the plan envisions protecting under the wildland recreation and primitive designations.

Using another measure, the tables indicate vast differences between the two plans when the number of "acres maintained in high to very high scenic integrity" is considered.

According to the Forest Service tables, the Clinton rule protects about 9.3 million acres of roadless national forest land in a state of high to very high scenic integrity, while the new state-specific plan would only retain about 3.5 million acres in Idaho as such.

As to whether the roadless lands would retain their wilderness characteristics, the tables state that the "majority of roadless areas retain their existing character" under the existing 2001 Clinton rule, while under the new Idaho rule "areas developed could have reduced wilderness character."

The tables also show distinct differences between the number of acres of high-sensitivity soils where road construction or reconstruction is permitted without restrictions for each of the plans. For the Clinton rule, that number is zero, and for the new Idaho plan, it's 235,200 acres.

His concerns aside, McCarthy isn't sure how effective officials with the Bush administration will be in pushing the new Idaho plan through before they leave office in about 13 months.

"I think it's going to be hard to jam this through. It's clear it's less protection," he said.

Environmentalists also question the Forest Service's timing in releasing the draft EIS right before the Christmas holiday.

"Under the cover of the hectic holiday season, the administration is trying to open the door to new development in the roadless backcountry of Idaho's national forests," a statement from the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Forest Campaign says. "If the administration gets its way, our country will lose some of the most peaceful and pristine places within our national forests."

Public comment sought

The U.S. Forest Service's proposed Idaho-specific roadless rule will soon be published in the Federal Register, an agency news release stated last week. Once that happens, a 90-day public comment period on the proposed rule and the accompanying draft environmental impact statement will commence. The Forest Service will host a series of public meetings throughout Idaho to present the proposed rule and accept public comments. The revised rule can be seen at roadless.fs.fed.us/idaho.shtml.

Mavs00
01-16-2008, 12:30 AM
Keep this non-political and it stays as it is informative. I sniff politics and it's gone.

chairrock
01-16-2008, 08:53 AM
It is already very political.

redhawk
01-16-2008, 09:48 AM
Tough not to be since what does or doesn't get done for the environment hinges on what the president and congress does. And the decisions are often based more on special interests or votes then what's really best overall.

Only way to truly accomplish anything along these lines is to align with the "green" special interests or become extremely pro-active and fight from ground level.

It used to be that public awareness made a big difference, but that was in an age now passed. Most people today seem to be more concerned about what flavors are in their bottled water, rather then why they have to drink buy it. The bottlers sell it by insinuating that our drinking water is unsafe. But there is no uproar over weather false implications or why the water might be unsafe.

Now if this whole Idaho thing were to cause the government to have to enact a law on bottled water say, then the public might oppose it because it would cause them an inconvenience.

So, i don't blame administrations or parties any more. I blame the public that allows them to conduct business as usual.

Hawk

DuctTape
01-16-2008, 01:56 PM
It just occured to me that there seems to be a temporal correlation between the shift to bottled water instead of tap and the usage of water filters/purifiers by backpackers.

twochordcool
01-16-2008, 05:31 PM
Keep this non-political and it stays as it is informative. I sniff politics and it's gone.

Well you know how I feel about it. I'll try to keep my feelings on the subject under control.

I think it's interesting and important. And I think it would be of interest to a lot of people who love the Adirondacks...no?

I merely wanted to share this with other people who may be interested, and make them aware of what is going on if they weren't already.

twochordcool
01-16-2008, 05:35 PM
And the decisions are often based more on special interests or votes then what's really best overall.

I agree completely.

But what criteria would you use exactly to determine what is best overall?

twochordcool
01-16-2008, 05:48 PM
So, i don't blame administrations or parties any more. I blame the public that allows them to conduct business as usual.

Some people try to do things but just can't seem to get very far.

What do you think holds them up?

DRIFTER
01-16-2008, 06:12 PM
Although this goes somewhat off the main topic and towards the bottled water subtopic, I thought I'd share. While trying to locate a new customer some years back, I took a wrong turn and wound up on a dead end road in an industrial park in the Bronx. While doing a u-turn, I noticed 4 bottled water tanker trucks filling up at the same depot. This, in itself, would not be unusual except for the fact that the logo's on each truck were different! Four trucks , four different companies, filling up from the same pipe! I found myself wondering if this wasn't even just tap water they were pumping!!!!!!

redhawk
01-16-2008, 06:17 PM
I agree completely.

But what criteria would you use exactly to determine what is best overall?

It's in the eye of the beholder. Even among like minded people, the actual interest may be varied. I may want certain protections given to the wilderness to preserve hiking trails. others may want the protections for trail bikes. So even though we have the same goals, we often have different reasons. As a result, we often get in each others way.

I originally supported the ADK. But over time, I realized that their interests were different then mine. That doesn't mean they they are wrong, just different.

So what I might think is the best overall, you might not. All we can do is try to get the people who make the decisions to declare exactly what their goals are. But of course they won't, they try to appear to be all things to all people.

Some people try to do things but just can't seem to get very far.

What do you think holds them up?

Pretty much the same as above. Coupled with the fact that few are positioned to make a difference. Petitions, letters, etc., cam only go so far, and from my experience have not been that successful. there is only a small minority of people who will take the time to try to force change, and of those, even fewer who are willing to sacrifice the time and often the money to be as pro-active as possible.

And again, those who are on the "same side" often are not.
We tend to throw around the definitions "special interest groups" and "agendas". But we have to understand that those define us as well. And often we are too fragmented and to wrapped up in our own causes, they we ignore the others, sometimes even being in opposition.

Having started off as a zealot, with romantic notions of changing everything back to the way it was, over the years I realized that it's impossible and not practical. All change will only come gradually, and in order to institute it, compromise is necessary. It's important for me to listen to the people whom I disagree with, and often if i have an open mind, i find their is merit in their concerns. If they in turn listen to me, they may come to the same conclusion. Then and only then can we sit down and try to come up with a compromise solution that will benefit both without pleasing either side completely.

So, in order to bring about change, we must try to find a solution that will get the support of both sides of the equation. If we are insensitive to the other side, we'll hit a brick wall.

Hawk

Kevin
01-16-2008, 06:51 PM
It is already very political.

Agreed, and not enough uneasy and cleverly disguised name calling to keep my interest. :p

What were we talking about again?

twochordcool
01-16-2008, 06:57 PM
Redhawk I think your views on environmental "gridlock" are on the mark.

But I personally believe that the environmentalists and conservationists take the high road in the debate - I see them siding on what they feel is right, taking into consideration that humans are not the only species that exist on this planet and that most ecosystems are already damaged or destroyed altogether from human activity. Pavement crisscrosses the majority of space on this continent. Unlike people who would argue against wilderness these people really are not looking out for self interests. Sure, they would like to have these places for recreational opportunity, but I believe that is secondary to their genuine desire to save natural places for nature itself.

It's hard to discuss this without forming an opinion and opening it up for debate, but I hope I was polite enough and did not cross any kind of line.

redhawk
01-16-2008, 09:32 PM
Redhawk I think your views on environmental "gridlock" are on the mark.

But I personally believe that the environmentalists and conservationists take the high road in the debate - I see them siding on what they feel is right, taking into consideration that humans are not the only species that exist on this planet and that most ecosystems are already damaged or destroyed altogether from human activity. Pavement crisscrosses the majority of space on this continent. Unlike people who would argue against wilderness these people really are not looking out for self interests. Sure, they would like to have these places for recreational opportunity, but I believe that is secondary to their genuine desire to save natural places for nature itself.

It's hard to discuss this without forming an opinion and opening it up for debate, but I hope I was polite enough and did not cross any kind of line.

Problem is..........
the people on the other side feel that they are right too.

twochordcool
01-16-2008, 09:53 PM
Problem is..........
the people on the other side feel that they are right too.

I know they do, and perhaps I'm not one to say they aren't, but they want to stand in the way of protecting roadless areas and creating more wilderness for $$$.

You can sum it up simply as nature vs. furthered and continued exploitation.

Jobs and money are great but in 100 years, if we are still around, we are going to continue to find ways to make money but we'll be wishing we managed our natural areas better and it'll be too late if certain people get their way.

Well I won't beat a dead horse - anybody else care to chime in?

Hobbitling
01-16-2008, 10:01 PM
I was reading "collapse", a book about cultures that have died out due to environmental destruction, and the author asked an interesting question...

What did the person who cut down the last tree on easter island think as he started chopping?

Keep in mind that when it was first colonized by polynesian settlers it was heavily forested and contained what is thought to be one of the largest palm tree species on earth (now extinct). when it was discovered by Europeans, it was completely deforested, and only contained grasses and a few small shrubs, and virtually no animal life. a few hundred people remained.

Earth may be a big island, but its still an island.

DRIFTER
01-16-2008, 10:20 PM
Shouldn't the people of Idaho decide what is good for their own state? If the powers to be could take 50 acres of the Adirondacks and build an industrial complex that would employ everyone who wants a job within a 75 mile radius , should South Carolina decide if that's the right or wrong course to take? If you were starving, you would want the job, if not you might opt for the environment, its a matter of needs and circumstance! Who's right and who's wrong, who knows!!!! The people of Idaho would be the ones to research the pros and cons of such a proposal and react appropriately, not us............

Ordin Aryguy
01-16-2008, 10:46 PM
Jobs and money are great but in 100 years, if we are still around...



Not that I'm ever overly shy, but I'll jump up and say that we won't be around in 100 years. None of us that are alive today have even the slimmest chance of still being capable of drawing a breath then. Except for perhaps Moses and a few of his homeboys, nobody lives that long. Our lives are short, and our foresight is even shorter. In today's world waking up next week is a great accomplishment for most. Thinking about something as far in the future as 100 years, well, you might as well be talking about a million years. With our current Me, Me, Me, Now, Now, Now way of thinking, even a year is a long time.

Screw it. If there's anything to be gained, even if the benefits last no more than a few years, it's well worth destroying something that took thousands of years to craft. We'll be dead, or at least drooling in our oatmeal waiting for our Depends to be changed when the repercussions of today's destructive decisions will have to be faced and dealt with. Gimmee the goods right now, let all those that are to be born behind us fend for themselves. Right? It's about Us and Now. The future? Who has time to wait for that?

This isn't political at all. It's societal. The same decisions are made, with the same disasterous outcomes, regardless of who's currently running the ship. The only difference in when the decision is made. Give or take a few years, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. The damage will be done.

Pessimistic? Fatalistic?... Neither... Realistic.


Ordin

redhawk
01-16-2008, 11:42 PM
Shouldn't the people of Idaho decide what is good for their own state?
NO, NO and NO again.

Why?

We're talking about FEDERAL LAND, not state land. Many of the citizens of Idaho cannot be objective. many of the ranchers in western states have sweetheart deals carved out for them by their Politicians. Thousends of acres of BLM lands (Federal Land "managed" by the Bureau of Land Management) are leased long term for a few cents an acre. Many of the minerals and other resources are made available to companies at cheap prices and the American Citizen receives no compensation from the huge profits that these companies make. In short, it's a rape of the American taxpayer.


If the powers to be could take 50 acres of the Adirondacks and build an industrial complex that would employ everyone who wants a job within a 75 mile radius , should South Carolina decide if that's the right or wrong course to take? If you were starving, you would want the job, if not you might opt for the environment, its a matter of needs and circumstance! Who's right and who's wrong, who knows!!!! The people of Idaho would be the ones to research the pros and cons of such a proposal and react appropriately, not us............

The Adirondacks are state land, not federal, so no the people of South Carolina should have no say.

It's a totally different scenerio then the land in Idaho.

Just as a further point, as a result of a Supreme Court decision several years ago, all those BLM lands, if not used by the federal or state governements, are supposed to be returned to the various Indian Nations who were the original "owners". Of course the ruling is being ignored by the states, especially South Dakota and not currently being enforced by the federal government.

Hawk

Judgeh
01-17-2008, 05:49 AM
The future? Who has time to wait for that?

Ordin

The biggest difference between humans and all other living things is that we have the abilities to think and reason. We can dream and plan for a future. (How good we are at these talents is another question, altogether.) That's why it's significant when someone like Teddy Roosevelt came around a hundred years ago or so and said "what a great idea it would be to preserve the Adirondacks so that folks in the future can experience what I'm experiencing now."

If we lose our concept of "future", then we truly are on the fast track to extinction.

Mavs00
01-17-2008, 06:43 AM
You guys have actually done a pretty good job, but it's been lightly debated and we reached the, "anything more could get nasty" stage. Thanks guys, for keeping it reasonably non-political for such a hot topic.