Roanoke Times Op-Ed: by David Muhly, who is the regional representative for the Sierra Club-Appalachian Region.
News courtesy of Virginia Forest Watch
On July 11, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger submitted a petition to the U.S. Forest Service requesting that all 4.4 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in California’s national forests be protected from logging, road-building and other development. By so doing he has joined a thus-far select group of forward-looking governors who recognize the wisdom of protecting their last wild forests for the clean water, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities they provide.
This follows on the heels of the federal government accepting the petitions of Virginia governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford who have also requested full protection for their roadless forests. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has also petitioned for full protection.
Last year, the Bush administration finalized a policy to replace the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The original Roadless Rule was the product of exhaustive studies and scientific, economic and public input, including 600 public meetings. Unprecedented in its overwhelming popularity, the rule garnered 10 times more public comments than any federal rule in history. This landmark plan was delayed, consistently undermined and then finally repealed by the Bush administration in May 2005.
The Bush administration did everything in its power to ignore the more than 4 million public comments in support of wild forest protection as well as an exceptionally strong ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the legality of the rule. The concerns of millions of Americans met with deaf ears, while the administration hung on the words of a handful of timber industry lobbyists. The administration shirked its responsibility to protect these few remaining roadless areas through a national policy, leaving it to governors to carry the weight.
With his petition, Schwarzenegger echoes what millions of Americans have repeatedly voiced since 2000 — our wild roadless forests deserve complete protection. Other governors should follow this lead, especially here in the Appalachians where such wild forest areas are in such short supply.
Unfortunately and in a blatant display of cynical mismanagement, the Bush administration is still moving ahead with roadless area timber sales in Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon despite promises of full interim protections during the petition process,
Whether it’s deploying sound energy policy, protecting their citizens from power-plant pollution, or protecting public lands, this is one more instance of states and localities having to shoulder the responsibilities being abdicated by the Bush administration on behalf of its industry cronies.
No matter where we live, we in this region should urge Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to step up to the plate and do the same as these other courageous governors in the region and increasingly around the country.
We owe the wild, roadless areas of our special Appalachian national forests no less protection than complete protection. After all, they belong to all of us.
News curtesy of Virginia Forest Watch