Environmentalists oppose planned roadless changes

Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Web links

For more, go to Roadless Area Conservation: www.roadless.fs.fed.us/ Alaska Center for the Environment: www.akcenter.org Alaska Chapter, Sierra Club: http://alaska.sierraclub.org.

ANCHORAGE - Alaska environmentalists say they've had to repeatedly jump through hoops to oppose federal plans for more roads in national forests.

They made that point Tuesday by submitting nearly 6,000 letters - through a Hula Hoop - to U.S. Forest Service officials from Alaskans opposed to Bush administration plans for national forests.

"They keep asking us the same things over and over again," said Bobbie Jo Skibo of the Alaska Center for the Environment. "We're going to keep jumping through the hoops because it matters."

A demonstration in front of Forest Service offices sponsored by ACE and the Sierra Club drew about 20 people, who carried signs such as "Alaskans for a wild Chugach and Tongass" and "Honk for wild forests." Demonstrators attached more than 150 letters from Alaskans onto construction paper and planted them in the snow.

Participants then trooped up to Forest Service offices and submitted the written comments through the toy hoop to Sharon Randall, acting planning staff officer, and Mona Spargo, a public affairs specialist. Chugach forest Supervisor Joe Meade was out of the office.

The demonstrators were submitting comments opposing a proposal by President Bush to reverse restrictions placed on logging and road-building in wild areas of national forests.

America's national forests cover 191 million acres. About 58.5 million acres are designated as "roadless." That includes 9.3 million acres of Southeast Alaska's 17-million acre Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest, and 5.4 million acres - 99 percent - of Southcentral Alaska's Chugach National Forest.

In 2001, shortly before he left office, then-President Clinton imposed a rule that prohibited new road construction in roadless areas. The ban has meant no logging, mining or other development.

Environmentalists say the rule is an important protection. The timber industry calls it overly intrusive and dangerous because it leaves millions of acres exposed to catastrophic forest fire. The state of Alaska sued to lift the restriction.

In December, the Bush administration opened 300,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest roadless areas to possible logging or other development. The administration also has "temporarily" lifted roadless protections for the entire Tongass and proposed similar rules for the Chugach.

In July, the Bush administration said it wanted to reverse the entire 2001 rule for roadless areas imposed by President Clinton. A new proposed policy calls for governors to petition for roadless protections of national forest acreage within their states.

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