THE ROADLESS INITIATIVE MOVES ON!
But, as expected, the path is hardly straight and smooth. (See The LYNX Feb.2000 for more details.) Numerous local officials, western governors and all sorts of motorized recreational groups and loggers have set the whining bar very high. Even some in the Forest Service have recently complained to the Chief about the divisive, contentious nature of the proposal, not to mention the pressure on tight budgets.
There is no doubt the proposal has once again sparked a nearly hysterical debate among some and has set many folks in the Forest Service back on their heels as they try to maneuver between skimpy budgets, forest planning, small staffs and heated rhetoric. Those who see roadlessness as a problem don't deserve much sympathy; those who understand the need to protect roadless landscapes and are caught in the midst of these contests, indeed, face formidable challenges.
In an enthusiastic letter to all employees, Chief of the Forest Service Mike Dombeck has offered an important vision. He noted these are anything but new discussions, with the exception of the growing scientific literature showing the need to protect roadless landscapes, reminding Forest Service employees that every piecemeal attempt at solution over the last 30+ years has resulted in an ever increasing spiral of controversy and loss of roadless values. He noted every major creative effort led by the Forest Service over the last 100 years, including the very creation of national forests at the turn of the 20th century, has been met with incredible controversy. He suggested the attitude to take is to look at this action to protect roadless areas as one of standing on the shoulders of true conservation giants, recognizing what will make the Forest Service unique will be protection of roadless landscapes and the values associated with those places.
While we have a long way to go and there will always be those in and out of the Forest Service pulling and tugging the agency further into the past, it is clear the curve into the future, recognizing the wild values of a landscape are of profoun d importance, is becoming easier to ride.
THE ROADLESS AREA CONSERVATION DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (DEIS) AND PROPOSED RULE, MAY 2000
This document, set for release on May 4, has received a phenomenal 500,000 comments and was subjected to almost 200 public meetings! Two versions will be available for public review and comment: a 10-15 page summary and a double volume, 400 page DEIS. Both versions will be available on paper, CD-ROM and on the Forest Service site. Order the paper and CD-ROM version as soon as possible from the Rocky Mt. Research Station, Publications Distribution, 240 W. Prospect Rd., Ft. Collins, CO 80526-2098. You can fax an order to 800-777-5805. The Forest Service roadless area website is: www.roadless.fs.fed.us.
GOVERNOR OBJECTS TO INITIATIVE
In a related event, Governor Michael Leavitt was one of the western governors responding to the roadless conservation strategy expressing concern over the whole initiative. Reprinted below is our March 14 cover letter to the Governor. We provided him a detailed analysis of Uintas roadless areas.
Dear Governor Leavitt:
We were quite concerned when we saw the letter from you and your Western governor colleagues concerning President Clinton s roadless initiative being analyzed by the Forest Service a few days back. While we understand and would expect the caution you expressed, we hope you will just as vigorously attempt to understand the deep ecological value of protecting these crucially valuable roadless areas. While there still exist a few resource con flicts within some of these areas, as you know, the primary fear of protecting these areas in some fashion seems to follow cultural and sociological issues. They are, no doubt, valid and important matters. At the same time there is no longer any doub t about the ultimate value of important landscapes --it is as close to a wide-spread consensus as one can ever get among ecologists. That also cannot be taken lightly. And given the ever-increasing growth in Utah, those areas take on an enhanced value. Looking at this issue with today s glasses is akin to what we have done as Utahns with respect to growth. Today is almost irrelevant in this context. The real value is years and years into the future. Thus we ask you to be equally conservative and cautious in respecting the value of these unique landscape, particularly on Utah s most important and unique mountainous ecosystem, the High Uintas. To that end I m enclosing the comments we provide d to the Forest Service at the onset of this process. I do hope you and your appropriate staff will review and understand the uniqueness of a wild High Uintas. It seems this kind of approach could go a long way to preventing another unsettling and broken path taken by the BLM wilderness process.
Dick Carter, Coordinator