PRESIDENT CLINTON: STRONG ACTION TO PRESERVE AMERICA'S FORESTS
January 5, 2001
President Clinton, in an event today at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., will announce the adoption of a comprehensive strategy to protect 58.5 million acres of pristine forestland – nearly one-third of America's national forests. Today's action, which will protect these lands from road building and logging, builds on the Administration's strong conservation record and culminates an unprecedented public outreach process launched more than a year ago by the President. The new protections, encompassing an area larger than all of our national parks combined, will protect water quality and biodiversity, and ensure that much of America's last, best wildland is preserved for future generations. With today's action, the Clinton Administration has protected more land in the continental United States than any administration since Theodore Roosevelt.
Broad Public Participation in Forest Protection. In October, 1999, President Clinton directed the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service to develop and propose for public comment a comprehensive plan to provide appropriate long-term protection for "roadless" areas of the national forests. The President said the "degree of protection afforded should reflect the best available science and a careful consideration of the full range of ecological, economic, and social values inherent in these lands." The final plan adopted today reflects input received at more than 600 public meetings held nationwide with an estimated 39,000 people attending. In developing the strategy, the Forest Service consulted with more than 180 American Indian and Alaska Native groups were consulted, received 1.6 million comments from the public, and collaborated with seven other federal agencies.
Strong Protection for Our Last, Best Wildlands. Roadless areas in the national forests – some of largest pristine wildlands remaining in the United States – provide an extraordinary array of irreplaceable benefits. They are a major source of clean drinking water for millions of Americans in communities across the country, and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including more than 200 plant and animal species protected or proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Roadless areas also provide extraordinary opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as hunting, fishing, mountain biking, off-road vehicle use on designated trails, and hiking.
Today's action will preserve these benefits on 58.5 million acres of national forestland in 39 states – including the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, America's largest temperate rain forest. The new rule bars road building and logging – with carefully crafted exemptions to protect public safety and forest health – while ensuring continued public access for recreation. On other areas of the national forests, the Forest Service will continue to work with local communities and the timber industry to ensure a reliable, sustainable supply of commercial timber.
Flexibility to Protect Communities and Public Safety. The new rule includes provisions to help ease potential economic impacts on local communities, preserve or enhance forest values, and guard against the risk of catastrophic wildlfire:
- In all roadless areas, timber already sold by the Forest Service or approved for sale can be logged. In the Tongass Forest, this "grandfathering" clause also extends to timber sales already the subject of a draft or final environmental impact statement, providing an additional year of timber supply at recent harvest rates. The Forest Service projects seven years of timber supply in the pipeline in the Tongass, and intends to take steps to ensure a reliable supply in the years beyond.
- Carefully controlled logging – for instance, thinning of underbrush and small trees – could be permitted to reduce the risk of wildfire, protect endangered species habitat, or restore ecosystem health. Any such logging must be consistent with preserving roadless values and can be undertaken only after detailed environmental study. In addition, roads could be built to fight fires that pose an imminent threat to communities.
- The Forest Service will propose a $72 million six-year assistance program to ease the economic transition for affected communities and help them diversity their economies. Of that total, $38.5 million will be directed to help communities in Southeast Alaska -- $12 million over three years for transition planning, and $26.5 million over six years for an Economic Adjustment Program.
- All activities already the subject of a Forest Service decision – including existing leases, permits, sales, etc. – will continue to be permitted. Existing oil, gas, coal and other leaseable mineral development can continue after existing leases expire if they are immediately renewed or reissued. The rule will have only very minimal impact on the nation's future supply of natural gas and other energy sources.
Additional details on the new roadless protections can be found on the web at http://roadless.fs.fed.us/.
The Clinton Administration Record: Restoring Balance to Our National Forests. Over the past eight years, the Clinton-Gore Administration has dramatically improved management of the 192 million-acre national forest system, proving again and again that environmental protection and economic growth can, and must, go hand in hand. The Administration:
- Moved to end unsustainable logging and taxpayer subsidies and strengthened protections for water quality, wildlife, and recreation.
- Created the Northwest Forest Plan, ending years of gridlock surrounding the spotted owl issue in the Pacific Northwest. The Plan's unprecedented approach brought together economic assistance, sound science, and intergovernmental coordination to promote the long-term health of the region's forests while also providing a sustainable timber supply.
- Finalized new forest planning regulations that will make forest management more sustainable over the long term and more effectively integrate science and public involvement into the management of the national forests and grasslands.
- Finalized a new road management policy that will make the 380,000 miles of road already in the national forest transportation system more safe, responsive to public needs, environmentally sound, affordable, and efficient to manage.
- Protected precious lands for future generations including the Baca Ranch in New Mexico and the Giant Sequoia National Monument.