Washington, DC (May 24, 2007) – Legislation that would protect 58.5 million acres of unspoiled forests, visited by millions of Americans every year, was introduced today in the U.S. Senate.
If passed, the bill will protect the nation’s remaining undeveloped forests from commercial logging, oil and gas drilling, and mining, which the Bush Administration has prioritized since 2001, according to policy analysts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John Warner (R-Va.) introduced the bill. Along with a companion bill introduced by 140 Representatives in the House, this legislation would congressionally guarantee the protections of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Despite widespread support and popularity for the Roadless Rule, timber industry allies continue to attack the regulation in court, and the Bush White House has tried to roll it back, according to NRDC.
“Americans have always been tied to their land, and our natural heritage is deeply ingrained in our national character. People see the growing impact of development, commercialization and global warming, and they want to know there’s more out there than another sub-division or concrete parking lot,” said Franz Matzner, NRDC’s Forest and Public Land Program advocate. “This legislation shows that our leaders in Congress have heard the public and recognize that protecting these last, best refuges means preserving a vital part of who we are.”
More than natural lands and wildlife habitats are at stake. Sixty million Americans get pure drinking water from the roadless areas this bill would protect. In addition to the vast recreational opportunities these forests provide to all Americans, fishing, wildlife, and scenic vistas generate millions of dollars for the residents of the communities in which they are located.
“Without the protection afforded to grizzly bears, salmon, wolves, and the entire forest ecosystem by this legislation, people in these communities stand to lose valuable sources of income and all Americans stand to lose innumerable natural resources,” NRDC’s wildlife expert Louisa Willcox said.
There are already 380,000 miles of roads in the National Forest system, enough to cross the nation 125 times. Today’s legislation would allow a limited number of new roads to be built to protect public safety and manage wildfires.