[an error occurred while processing this directive] ISSUE:
Forest Service's Roadless Areas Initiative (2000)

Important notice: This issue is currently "in play," with the status changing almost weekly. Please carefully note the dates of all documents provided here. For the latest information one can consult the environmental news listings at Yahoo!

Letter representing the North Coast Chapter

USDA Forest Service-CAET
Attn: Roads P.O. Box 22300
Salt Lake City, UT

To Whom It May Concern:

The North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is writing to express our support for an ecologically sustainable National Forest road system. In the interest of native plant conservation, we feel that the final roads policy that is put forth by the Forest Service must adopt the following considerations:

1) No New Roads. With very limited exceptions, no new roads should be constructed on public lands, roadless or otherwise. The focus of the Forest Service should be restoring and reversing the ecological damage done by the existing and overbuilt roads network.

2) Ecosystem Health First, Extraction Second. Road construction and maintenance must be informed by ecological considerations first and foremost and by resource extraction secondarily. As proposed, the policy defines the minimum road system as what is "needed" to fulfill the current Forest Plans. This is vague and ignores the fact that many of these "needed" roads are wreaking the most ecological havoc. Only roads that are essential to management objectives should be retained. Moreover, most current forest plans are not based on ecological sustainability.

3) All Sensitive Areas Must be Off Limits to Roads. Some areas (e.g., riparian areas, unstable slopes, and sensitive and degraded watersheds) are simply unsuitable for roads. The needs of disturbance-sensitive species must inform road construction, maintenance and use.

4) The Policy Must Govern Off Road Vehicle Use. The proposed policy must include the same ecological standards for ORV trails as for conventional roads. Forest system ORV "trails" and user-created trails cause enormous ecological damage.

5) All Projects Must be Reevaluated. Exempting work that is "listed in a schedule of proposed actions" is unacceptable and undermines the policy's intent.

6) All Impacts Must be Addressed. Reduction of road maintenance and reconstruction impacts should not be limited to those that are "practicable," but addressed on a site specific basis and prioritized according to ecological needs.

As the foremost organization statewide concerned with the conservation of California's native flora, we at CNPS intend to ensure that proper and lawful recognition is given to the responsible management of our precious natural heritage.

Melissa Brooks Legislation Chair, North Coast Chapter, CNPS

Wildly Successful Roadless Comment Period!

Date: 7/25/00

Update from the California Wilderness Coalition:

Congratulations and THANK YOU! to all forest and wilderness activist for the tremendous show of support for our wild and roadless places!

On Monday, July 17th, the official comment period for the Roadless DEIS ended (midnight Honolulu time) and the Forest Service had in hand ONE MILLION comments demanding stronger protection for these last wild places. That is nearly four times the previous record for public comments received by a federal agency about a public policy initiative. The previous record of 275,000 letters and postcards was received as part of the organic food standards debate in 1998.

Also, the Forest Service reported that a majority of the speakers at a majority of the public hearings were in support of strengthening the proposed rule to ban not only new roads but also ORVs, logging, and mining, and of course to include the Tongass National Forest in AK.

The national trend of overwhelming support for wild areas was definitely seen here in California. In hearings from Eureka to Redding to Sacramento to Oakhurst to San Diego, wilderness supporters were out in droves delivering an undeniable mandate to the president and other lawmakers to protect our wild places.

None of this would have been possible without the support of all of you! Thanks to everyone who sent in comments, emails, signed postcards and testified at the numerous hearings throughout the state. Great Job!

Background Information on Roadless Area Initiative

In October of 1999, President Clinton announced his intent to direct the US Forest Service to develop and implement a plan to permanently protect roadless areas. The plan would include a ban on new road-building in roadless areas over 5000 acres. A total of 40 million acres would be protected from roadbuilding (the Forest Service owns 192 million acres nationwide). The Forest Service currently maintains 400,000 miles of roads-more than the entire federal highway system-and has an $8.4 million deficit on maintenance of already-existing roads. Opposition is primarily from timber industry interests and off-road vehicle clubs. Only 7% of Forest Service timber comes from roadless areas; only 5% of the nation's timber comes from National Forests.

On October 25, 1999, The USDA Forest Service issued a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement as the first step toward implementing President Clinton's direction to further protect remaining roadless areas within National Forest System lands.

The Forest Service released its Draft Roadless Area Conservation Environmental Impact Statement on May 9, 2000 and held a public comment period on the draft that closed on July 17, 2000. During the comment period the agency hosted 445 public meetings across the country and used a variety of other means to help people use the comment period effectively. The public meetings drew about 23,000 people. About 7,000 chose to make oral comments at sessions specifically designed for that purpose.

All comments were sent to the Forest Service's Content Analysis Enterprise Team (CEAT). CAET's task included compiling, organizing, summarizing, and analyzing the full range of viewpoints and concerns about the proposal. The next step in the process is for the CAET findings to be provided to the team working on the Roadless Environmental Impact Statement for specific responses to the public comments. Responses may include such things as adjustments to alternatives, clarifications, etc.

The Final EIS is scheduled to be released in mid-November 2000 with the anticipated publication of the Final Rule in mid-December 2000.

Inventoried roadless areas are public lands typically exceeding 5,000 acres that met the minimum criteria for wilderness consideration under the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Forest Service used the most recent inventory available for each national forest and grassland to identify the inventoried roadless areas addressed by this proposal.

Inventoried roadless areas in Northern California add up to 4.3 million acres, about 20% of Forest Service lands in the state.

Visit the Forest Service for details of the proposed road management policy, including maps.

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California Native Plant Society - North Coast Chapter
P.O. Box 1067 Arcata, CA 95518-1067

Last modified  05/11/01 19:32 EDT