WHAT NOW FOR ROADLESS COUNTRY?
After over 1.5 million comments (most of them vigorously supportive), 600 public meetings, numerous congressional hearings, and two years in the making, our appointed President, George W. Bush, has done everything he can do thus far to undo the roadless rule (see The LYNX, 12/00, 5/00, 4/00, 2/00, 12/99, 10/99). He has postponed its effective date back to mid- May 2001. A blustery group of Congressmen, including Jim Hansen, Chairman of the House Resource Committee, have threatened congressional action. Idaho and Alaska have litigated. GW's footprint is all over that litigation; the administration has refused to defend the rule in the Idaho case by not addressing the plaintiff's claims that the rule is illegal-- despite the fact that Attorney General Ashcroft promised to defend this specific roadless rule because it had the force and effect of law.
Now add the fact that Chief of the Forest Service Mike Dombeck has resigned. In his resignation letter to Secretary of Agriculture Veneman Dombeck urged her to hold dearly to the roadless rule, enhance the National Wilderness Preservation System, and continue to protect old growth.
All of this should have been expected. While it raises our collective blood pressure and, for the first time, the roadless rule does not look as secure as it did a few weeks back, the issues have proven to be independent of any particular Presidential administration. Bush will come and go, just like Clinton. If we've learned anything it is that the real place where roadless areas will be protected and wildness preserved will not be at the volatile national level, where politics has become hopelessly mired in self-aggrandizement, but at the forest level.
That is where we must prevail.