Bush could leave wildlands open to pollution

New rules repealing the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protected 58.8 million acres of wildland were proposed this week by the Bush Administration.

This would mean that previously protected roadless land (see related story) would now be open to other usage, and state governors would have to individually make a formal request in order for the land to stay protected in the lower 48 states.

President of Defenders of Wildlife Roger Schlickeisen believed that the protected land would now be left open to road-building, logging, mining and drilling projects. He said: "This plan amounts to selling off our last legacy of wild national forest to the timber industry. It's a raw deal for everyone but the President's big campaign contributors who get open access to our nation's last remnants of wild forest land."

The proposed rule change would also weaken drinking water protection, according to Jim DiPeso, the American policy director for grassroots organisation Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP). He said that national forest-land provided source areas for community drinking water systems for 39 states, and making such changes to these source areas was extremely short-sighted:

"Wild forests are an endowment that produce clean water free of charge. Weakening protection of these forests is like raiding a college savings account for vacation money. It's not wise and it's certainly not conservative."

A report from the REP demonstrated that logging roads and timber cutting in these areas would seriously degrade the quality of the water by causing erosion, landslides and floods.

However, President Bush's new rules will help to maintain healthy forests and rangelands while reducing threats of forest fires (see related story) according to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, who stated: "Our actions today advance President Bush's commitment to cooperatively conserving roadless areas on national forests."

By Jane Kettle



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