Bush Roadless Rule Change Puts 23 Parks at Risk

WASHINGTON, DC, July 30, 2004 (ENS) – At least 23 national parks will be negatively impacted if the Bush administration enacts its proposed revision of the roadless rule, park advocacy groups said in a new report. The 23 parks are in 16 states – they include Mount Rainier, Olympic and Yellowstone National Parks.

The organizations say the Bush proposal threatens uninterrupted scenic views, clear flowing streams, abundant wildlife and solitude now found at the parks.

The Bush plan introduced earlier this month would force states to petition the federal government to enforce the roadless rule, which currently bans roadbuilding and logging in some 58.5 million acres of remote and unspoiled public land.

In their report, "Collateral Damage: How the Bush Administration’s Repeal of the Roadless Rule Threatens National Parks," the advocacy groups say the parks directly at risk are visited by more than 40 million Americans each year – more than a third of all visits to U.S. national parks, monuments and parkways.

The proposal would turn "our national parks into front row seats for the destruction of our national forests," said Campaign to Protect America's Lands Director Peter Altman.


Electric Peak, Gallatin Mountain Range, Yellowstone National Park (Photo courtesy NPS)
"Worse, the parks themselves will suffer from the collateral damage of timber clear-cuts, destroyed wildlife habitats and migratory corridors, streams destroyed by sediment, and the noise and stench of industrial development," Altman said.

About 20 percent of all roadless forest areas that could lose federal protection under the proposal either directly border or are near national parks and monuments, according to the report released by Altman’s group and the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees.

The proposal in effect gives states the right to block the federal regulation and gives state officials broad authority over the future of the remaining remote areas of the national forests.

Critics say the proposal completely guts the Clinton era roadless rule and gives states unprecedented authority over the future of the national forests.

Bill Wade, spokesman for the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees, says Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton should try to block the revision of the roadless rule.


Sitka spruce in Olympic National Park, Washington (Photo by Leanore Bittner courtesy NPS)
"No Department of the Interior Secretary worth his or her salt would stand by and allow this indirect attack on our national parks to go unchallenged," said Wade, a former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park.

"As the head of the agency responsible for our national parks, Secretary Norton is directly, ultimately responsible for their protection," Wade said. "It is her responsibility as such to comment on these rules and forcefully call for their rejection."

But that is highly unlikely, and the Bush administration says the fears outlined by the advocacy groups are unwarranted.

On Wednesday, the administration released correspondence between the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service that reiterates a commitment to protecting the national parks.

"We want to assure you that we will work closely with you and that we will strive to manage the national forest lands so that the integrity of National Parks is maintained," U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said in a July 23 letter to Park Service Director Fran Mainella.

But Heritage Forests Campaign Co-Director Robert Vandermark is not persuaded. "No rule in U.S. history has more support than the Roadless Rule," he said. "The administration’s repeal of the roadless rule is a giveaway to special interests at the expense of the environment."

The Forest Service will accept comments on the proposal through September 14. More information can be found at: http://roadless.fs.fed.us/#comments.