PROPOSED SHUTDOWN OF PUBLIC ACCESS TO NATIONAL FORESTS
The US Forest Service (USFS) has quietly declared a new policy to place a Roadless Area Moratorium on entering roadless areas of National Forests and to allow many roaded areas to revert back to wilderness. Michael Dombeck, Chief of the USFS, said the agency "will aggressively decommission old, unneeded, and unused roads." This policy has been issued without any congressional oversight or public input so far.
The USFS has announced a 30-day comment period ending February 27, 1998. Public meetings are supposed to be scheduled across the country. Call your local Forest Service office immediately to find out when and where they will be held.
Officially intended to decrease logging in National Forests, this policy will also affect many recreational activities. Lack of access through roaded areas will affect bikers, fishermen, hunters, skiers, off-roaders, and many others currently, over 90% of recreation on the National Forests takes place in part on forest roads, often built originally for logging. The Moratorium and new policy will close many of those existing roads. The new policy will cut off access for many ranchers, miners, and private property owners as well.
Mr. Dombeck justifies the shutdown as an effort to prevent "environmental damage from erosion, landslides, and degradation of western drinking water supplies." Increasingly, federal agencies are following an environmental agenda to designate more wilderness areas and reduce public access to wildlife habitats.
The 18-month Roadless Area Moratorium will lead to millions of acres of defacto wilderness and deny access to hundreds of resource dependent communities. The actual length of the moratorium will be two to three years . . . and perhaps more. Most of the Moratorium area will likely end up in some form of permanent wilderness designation.
The Moratorium is a clear attempt by this Administration to push the Sierra Clubs position of no harvest on federal lands. By law, roadless area decisions are dealt with in the forest planning process and through wilderness legislation. The Administration is seeking to bypass this process.
Here is what you can do to get Congress into action to stop the Moratorium:
The "Special Areas" categories must be eliminated. This policy is one of the most anti-access, anti-recreation and anti-forestry actions ever taken by the government primarily due to the inclusion of the "special areas" category.
It, in essence, allows for every acre, not just roadless, of the National Forest system that has "unique ecological characteristics or social values" (in other words, every acre that isnt already locked up) to become off limits to timber harvest or other types of management. The green groups are engaged in a seek-and-destroy mission to nominate "special areas" to tie up every acre of National Forest land. The Moratorium could last years instead of months.