It's time to say 'the road stops here'

My turn

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2001

"I guess all land is precious, but the part that the people uniformly would not want to spoil, will not be despoiled." - President Bush, March 13, 2001 from a press statement on the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. This comment was tailored to answer the more than 1.6 million people who responded, 96 percent in favor of the rule, in over 600 public meetings over a three-year period.

Attorney General, John Ashcroft was asked during his confirmation hearing if he would defend the rule. He assured the Senate that he would, and said that it would be a disservice to the president and the country to do otherwise.

This week in Idaho, John Ashcroft and President Bush did a great disservice to the country and their own honor by not defending the rule. Private interest flexed their muscle and the Bush Administration buckled. Rather than defend the rule, they left the door open for the judge to issue an injunction against the effective date of the regulation that could effectively see that the Roadless Rule will never be in implemented.

What this means to us here in Juneau is that we can expect to see 115 million boardfeet of timber coming out of Juneau Ranger District over the next seven years. The Tongass Land Management Plan calls for 15 million-plus boardfeet of timber per year to come out of our backyards. Every site proposed for logging by the Forest Service - Pt. Couverton, Windaham Bay, Taku Harbor, Cowee-Davis Creek and St. James Bay - would have all been protected by the rule. Now, under current Tongass Land Management Plan, said Deputy Ranger Pete Griffin, it will all be cut.

The rule does not restrict access to the 4,500 miles of road already on the Tongass to motor-

ized vehicles. Nor does it effect hunting, fishing, hiking, camping or other recreation in roadless areas. What the rule does is ban road building, subsidized logging, drilling and certain types of mining in areas that do not have roads and have not yet been logged.

The Tongass is the largest and most logged national forest, but still has a lot of the last old-growth forest left in the country. Its benefit to us standing is so much greater than on a boat to Asia, which is where much of the old-growth lumber goes. The Tongass is Southeast's economy. The tourism, recreation and commercial fishing industries bring $145 million into Juneau's economy. Logging the Tongass cost taxpayers over $35 million in subsidies for private logging companies to cut $6 million in timber. That's a $29 million loss that goes toward the destruction of watershed stability, thereby destroying clean fish habitat and clean drinking water. It destroys multi-use recreational possibilities and ruins view-shed (I hate that phrase) for tourists and residents. The tourism industry is the fastest growing industry in the world. Are we really willing to jeopardize a statewide $2 billion-and-growing industry?

Economically it makes sense to support the rule, but what value can we put on the loss of your favorite hunting ground, the place you taught your children to fish, or to pitch a tent? How much would they have to pay you to view scarred mountainside from your breakfast and dinner table? We all have to make a living, but this is about our way of life. It's about what brought us here, and keeps us here. We need to hold those who we elect to office accountable for their promises and their actions. When President Bush went back on his prom-

ise in Idaho, it affected our way of life. It's our choice, do we subsidize the destruction of our future, or do we say that road stops here?

Kevin T. Myers is a Juneau representative of the Sierra Club.

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