May 6, 2005 – Conservationists sharply criticized the Bush administration's repeal Thursday of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a Clinton-era measure designed to protect 58.5 million acres of pristine federal forests in 38 states and Puerto Rico.
The policy change opens up about one-third of US national forests for road construction and commercial exploitation, including logging and mining.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the League of Conservation Voters, the Heritage Forests Campaign, Trout Unlimited and other conservation and environmental groups said the president has replaced the "roadless rule" with a "treeless rule." Some accused Bush of favoring corporate interests and reneging on a promise he made early in his first term to protect the nationâ€™s forests.
Mike Johanns, Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National Forest Service, said the move would require the states to work with the federal government, along with tribes, local communities and the public "through a process that is fair, open and responsive to local input and information."
While opponents could challenge individual development plans, Niel Lawrence, senior attorney for the NRDC, said such petitions were pointless because the Forest Service would still have final say.