1998 the United States Forest Service issued a directive suspending
the construction of roads in roadless areas of our national forests.
In October 13, 1999, President Clinton asked the Forest Service
to begin discussing with the public a moratorium on road building
in our National Forests.
with any important issue, the Forest Service has put this issue
up for public discussion. Before implementing any major change in
policy the Forest Service conducts public hearings. All are welcome
but all too often the timber companies are the most faithful attendee's.
are not aware of these hearings or that the Forest Service weighs
public opinion in the decision making process. The timber
companies are very well aware and often use their wealth to
influence policy. Because the meetings are held in the middle
of the day and at locations that may not be convenient for all to
attend, e mail and letters make it necessary to be heard. Resources
are included here at the end of this article.
going any further it may be necessary to define the function of
the Forest Service and the mission that they are empowered to do.
At the turn of the century the timber barons were buying up large
tracts of Forests for the purpose of clear cutting. The forests
of the Northeast were nearly gone so they tuned their axes to the
virgin forests of the southeast and the far west. As the forests
were being decimated with unregulated clear cutting, large
treeless areas were left behind. Piles of slash, smaller branches
that can't be used for lumber, were left behind creating a tinder
box waiting to explode. In some areas a sea of stumps extended as
far as the could see. Often the Timber companies would abandon this
land when they were finished with their logging operations. The
resulting floods and forest fires were the worst that this country
had ever seen. The loss of life and property by private citizens
great flood of 1907 was an incredible disaster in the city of Pittsburgh,
Pa. There was a great loss of life and the great steel mills were
severely damaged. This loss of life and income was blamed
on the clear cutting of forests upstream from the city. This unregulated
activity and abandonment of land lead to erosion and unusual run
off and lead to this great flood. At the time there was a great
public outcry and many credit that single event for the passage
of the Weeks Act of 1911.
Weeks act appropriated $9
million dollars to purchase 6 million acres of land in the eastern
United States for the purpose of establishing national forests.
Much of this land was abandoned or unwanted by large timber companies
and therefore inexpensive. The purpose of this act was to conserve
watersheds and forests to ensure that the flood of 1907 did not
reoccur. This landmark legislation was the first in this country
the close connection between issues of watershed protection and
issues of forestry.
premise for the creation of the United States Forest Service was
for the stewardship of our national forest land. Stewardship is
defined as the administration of land and associated resources in
a manner that enables them to be passed on to future generations
in a healthy condition. As time passed, closer to the present, this
responsible vision was forgotten. Timber companies were allowed
to apply for permits to clear cut timber on our public lands. They
were also allowed to build roads to access these remote stands of
timber. Often these practices were allowed because the public did
not attend hearings in any significant numbers.
Forest Service's timber sale program loses 1.2 billion dollars annually.
This does not include maintenance costs of forest roads and hidden
administrative costs. That is only the beginning. Businesses and
municipalities nearest to the forest land also have unaccounted
costs that may be in the billions. There is far more revenue created
by recreational opportunities and tourism than the few jobs created
by logging. Very little of the income created by the timber sales
is transferred to the impacted communities surrounding the forests.
Increased filtration cost for drinking water and decreased tourist
revenue makes the timber sales fiscally irresponsible.
it should be understood that the roadless policy is not for every
acre of the National Forest Land. The proposed policy is for undeveloped
areas that meet minimum criteria for wilderness consideration under
the Wilderness Act of 1964. These are areas typically exceeding
5,000 acres that were inventoried during the agency's formal Roadless
Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II) process, and remain in a roadless
condition through forest planning decisions. The roadless policy
only affects 54 million of 194 million acres of US Forest Service
land. Not much, looking at the big picture, so why would anyone
do I do?
Forest Service does listen to your voice when it devises policy
changes as far sweeping as this. Below there is a list of contact
information available if you can not attend the public hearings.
You can be sure that the timber companies and other commercial interests
will have their representatives present. Nothing is quite like a
face to face meeting but if you can't attend please use the information
below to be heard. We can not afford, economically and environmentally
to allow commercial interests to continue to abuse our public lands!
Forests In North Carolina
June 10, 2001
Owen Conference Center University of North Carolina at Asheville
One University Heights
9:00 a.m. to
you can't make it to the meeting please e mail your comments to
the following address. In the subject heading put "Roadless
Policy". It is important to make your message brief and to
the point to insure that it is read.
comments must be received by July 17, 2000. Comments can also be
faxed directly to 877-703-2494 or mailed to: USDA Forest Service-CAET;
Attention: Roadless Area Proposed Rule, PO Box 221090, Salt Lake
City, UT 84122.
can also comment directly at the roadless website,
can also call the roadless toll-free information number, 1-800-384-7623
or locally, call 703-605-5299.
help people review, understand and improve the proposal, more than
300 meetings are scheduled throughout the country.
schedule of meetings is available on the website: