President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We are deeply disturbed by your administration's recent decision to repeal the widely popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The proposal that Secretary Veneman announced on July 12th breaks a promise she made on May 4, 2001, when she said, "We're here today to announce the department's decision to uphold the Roadless Area Conservation Rule." Moreover, it goes against the wishes of the 2.5 million public comments the Forest Service has received in support of the rule.
The Roadless Rule is a balanced policy that protects the last third of our national forests from most logging and road construction while allowing new roads in order to fight fires and ensure public safety and allowing brush clearing to protect forest health. The rule ensures that our national forests will continue to provide clean drinking water for millions of Americans, wildlife habitat, endless recreational opportunities, and other important ecological values. The rule is also fiscally responsible as it allows the Forest Service to address the estimated $10 billion backlog in needed road maintenance instead of using taxpayer dollars to subsidize building new roads.
Given the many important values of the Roadless Rule and the wide support it enjoys, we oppose your proposal to replace the rule with a process that requires governors to petition for protections for roadless areas in their states with no guarantee that the protection will be accepted or enforced by the Forest Service. Decisions about land use and land protection within the national forests is supposed to be the job of the federal government, not the job of state governors who are elected by the citizens of the state and often do not have the staff or expertise to make land management decisions. Moreover, your proposal allows governors veto power to eliminate roadless protections in favor of increased logging, mining or other development on federal lands by reverting to local forest management plans should a petition to seek protection not be filed.
We are also concerned that your administration appears to be using lawsuits against the Roadless Rule as an excuse for repealing it. The Department of Agriculture is not required by the pending litigation to act on the rule. Furthermore, if your administration is so concerned about the courts, the Department of Justice should have offered a more vigorous defense of the rule, as Attorney General Ashcroft indicated he would do during his confirmation hearings.
We urge you to withdraw your proposal to repeal the Roadless Rule. Instead, we call on you to keep your promise to uphold the Roadless Rule in the Lower 48 and in Alaska's Chugach National Forest, and reinstate the rule in Alaska's Tongass Rainforest. Future generations of Americans will thank you for preserving our last wild forests.
We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.
Rosa De Lauro
Chris Van Hollen
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Melvin L. Watt
Eddie Bernice Johnson
William Lacy Clay
Sheila Jackson Lee
Peter De Fazio