Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Federal bills compete over national forest roads

Nearly 60 million acres of national forests were put off-limits to motor vehicles, road building and logging during the Clinton administration. Last week, a bill was introduced that would turn that rule into law. According to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a sponsor of the bill along with U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee D-Wash., the Roadless Area Conservation Act would protect “hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.” Various forms of this bill have been introduced by Inslee and Cantwell since 2002. “There is an urgent need to safeguard the remaining undeveloped forest lands as a home for wildlife, a haven for recreation and a heritage for future generations,” Cantwell said. But not everyone is convinced. And one California congressman wants to make sure that bill never sees the light of day. Instead, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., introduced a bill – the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act – in April that would release about 43 million of those acres to be used for oil and gas development, motorized recreation and logging. “Millions of acres of land across the United States are being held under lock and key unnecessarily,” McCarthy said. “My bill acts on recommendations made by government agencies managing these lands so they are opened up for increased public use.” The recommendations upon which McCarthy’s bill relies are from a 1979 U.S. Forest Service report [PDF] that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had called “inadequate because of its use of unsupported and undocumented statements, its lack of related data on demands for resources, and its unbalanced economic approach.” The report recommends keeping 15 million acres protected, allocating 36 million for non-wilderness and holding an additional 11 million aside for further planning...more

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