Statement by Niel Lawrence, NRDC Senior Attorney

WASHINGTON (May 5, 2005) -- Today the Bush administration will announce the formal repeal of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which was issued by the U.S. Forest Service in January 2001 to protect the last remaining wildlands in our national forest system. The rule placed about one-third (58.5 million acres) of the national forest system's total acreage off-limits to virtually all road building and logging. Conservation groups considered it one of the greatest forest conservation measures in U.S. history. For more information about the roadless rule, click here.

The following statement is by NRDC Senior Attorney Niel Lawrence:

"Today the Bush administration completely ignored the will of the American people by axing our country's most popular forest conservation measure. Americans have made it clear that they want to preserve and protect the small percentage of our national forests that remain roadless and wild. But the president has replaced the roadless rule with the 'treeless rule,' and, in doing so, he has deprived future generations of their birthright and natural heritage.

"Administration officials may say that they have amended, not repealed, the roadless rule. However, the treeless rule is about replacing real protections with a meaningless process. Today's announcement is not about giving governors more input, since decisions remain in the hands of the Bush administration. It is not about protecting roadless values, since it allows for lower protections than before the roadless rule was established. Even before today's announcement, 50 timber sales were moving forward to decimate pristine roadless areas in Alaska's wildest forests. The administration now is planning similar destruction in some of America's rarest wild places in the lower 48 states.

"This new policy is a last-ditch effort to short-circuit a legal process that was bound to uphold the legality of the roadless rule and the sentiment of 4.2 million comments submitted by Americans who favor preserving roadless forestlands. Americans treasure these places of rare natural beauty, but the new Treeless Rule will allow more pollution of clean drinking water, worsening of forest fires, and spoiling of some of the world's greatest recreation, hunting and fishing opportunities.

"These forests are worth more to our economy standing than stacked as two-by-fours, yet the administration would rather allow their destruction for short-term corporate profit. To add insult to injury, this corporate benefit often comes at taxpayer expense. In Alaska's Tongass rainforest alone, timber sales in roadless areas are projected to cost at least $165 million in taxpayer subsidies over the next 10 years."