NRDC and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Applaud Action to Protect 4.4 Million Acres

SAN FRANCISCO (July 11, 2006) -- Roadless areas in California's national forests got a second chance today when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced support for preserving 4.4 million acres of California's wildest, most pristine lands. The Bush administration stripped protection for the lands last year when it repealed the nationwide Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Under a new rule issued by the U.S. Forest Service, governors must petition the federal government to block road-building in remote areas of national forests. It was that step that Gov. Schwarzenegger announced he would take today. By doing so, he joins governors around the country, from Virginia to New Mexico, all of whom support full protection for roadless areas in their states.

"By calling for full protection of these environmentally sensitive lands, Gov. Schwarzenegger is standing up for open space, verdant forests, incredible wildlife and clean water," said NRDC Senior Attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. "The governor has now added his voice to the hundreds of thousands of Californians who have written the federal government in support of protecting these lands."

In addition to calling for full protection of all 4.4 million roadless acres, the governor also said he would appeal the Forest Service's management plans for the four Southern California national forests. Conservationists say the agency's plans to manage the Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland and Los Padres National Forests fail to protect roadless areas, wildlife habitat and other natural values. Twenty-five percent of all California's roadless national forest land is in those four forests.

"Californians overwhelmingly want these areas protected, and today Governor Schwarzenegger is sending this message loud and clear, from the redwood forests to Washington, D.C." said Sami Yassa, director of NRDC's Forest Initiative in San Francisco.

"The Bush administration turned a deaf ear to the American public's resounding call for protecting the last wild forests left in our country," said Yassa. "But Governor Schwarzenegger's action today shows he has listened to Californians and will stand up to protect this integral part of our natural heritage."