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[greenyes] Administration Uses Christmas Eve To Announce Opening Up Tongass National Forest for Roads
NEW YORK TIMES - 12/24/03

Administration Is Exempting Alaska Forest From Protection

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - The Bush administration announced on Tuesday that the
Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the largest in the country, would be
exempted from a Clinton-era rule, potentially opening up more than half of
the 17 million-acre forest for more development and as many as 50 logging

The decision stems from the settlement of a lawsuit between Alaska and the
federal government over the so-called roadless rule, which prohibited the
building of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest
across the country.

Environmental groups attacked the administration for the settlement in July,
saying it was an underhanded strategy for circumventing the regulation.
Conservation groups said the administration had failed to defend the
roadless designation adequately.

But Ray Massey, a spokesman for the Forest Service in Alaska, said that
agency officials felt there were already enough protections for the Tongass.
"We didn't really need roadless to protect the Tongass," he said in a
telephone interview. "We already have a forest plan in place to protect the

Before putting the roadless designation into effect, the Forest Service had
drawn up plans for the immediate development of 300,000 acres in the
Tongass. Environmental groups say that about 9.6 million acres of the
Tongass could be affected by the dropping of the ban.
The roadless rule was put in place after a two-year process that included
600 scientific studies and two rounds of public comments that generated
almost two million responses, most of them in favor of the rule.

Since its inception, the rule has been challenged through a host of legal,
legislative and administrative efforts. The conflicts have highlighted the
tensions between environmental protection and economic development, and
between state autonomy and federal oversight.

Environmental groups supported the roadless rule as a way to curb the
development and logging that had already affected half of national forest
land. But Western states and the timber industry said the rule was
unjustified in its sweeping scope - touching about 30 percent of national
forest acreage in the country.

Industry groups and states have made a concerted effort to attack the rule
through lawsuits around the country. In July, a federal district court judge
in Wyoming suspended the rule nationwide. Environmental groups are appealing
the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in

Before that, a federal court in Idaho originally threw out the roadless
rule, but that decision was overturned last December by the United States
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco.

The Tongass National Forest, with 16.8 million acres, has been particularly
contentious because of its environmental symbolism as the only temperate
rain forest on the continent.


Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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