|08-06-2004, 09:29 AM||#1 (permalink)|
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Roadless rule puzzles governor
Roadless rule puzzles governor
By WHITNEY ROYSTER
Star-Tribune environmental reporter Friday, August 06, 2004
JACKSON -- Confused about what the proposed roadless rule means for Wyoming and its national forests?
Join the governor.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Thursday the Bush administration's proposed rule to eliminate Clinton-era protections on forests' roadless areas "may not be as evil as some people see it, nor as good as others see it."
Further, the governor doesn't know how the plan is "a step forward" and allows states meaningful participation.
"As near as I can tell, the feds are transferring a kind of political planning responsibility without any of the authority, and frankly without probably some of the information you might need to make the decision," he said.
Freudenthal said the state does not have the resources or the expertise to go into national forests and determine what areas should be included as roadless areas. And, he said because the U.S. secretary of agriculture is accepting petitions from the states to include an areas as roadless for only 18 months after the rule is enacted, petitions will largely surround lands currently under scrutiny.
"My fear is what ends up getting looked at are the sort of pressure points of the time period ... as opposed to the more traditional forest planning process that goes over a period of years," he said. "We may or may not have the information we need to make the decisions. It goes to them and they decide if they like the petition. They retain all the decision making so it's unclear to me where this is a step forward from what we really wanted, which was to get rid of the roadless rule and go back and do it in the context of the general forest planning process."
Governors, particularly in the West, have been trying to work with Forest Service managers to develop forest plans that incorporate local input. But others say land management decisions on federal land should rest with the entire country and should not be unduly influenced by the states.
The rule, announced July 12, strips roadless protection on 58.5 million acres of forest nationwide. But, those roadless areas are then managed under forest plans. Those plans may have protections of their own and dictate if roadless areas are to be managed for wilderness qualities or for human disturbance.
Further, state governors can petition the secretary of agriculture to include areas for pristine management. Governors can also petition to redraw boundaries around roadless areas to incorporate more or less as protected areas.
But the agriculture secretary can deny those requests, and any validated requests still have to go through environmental analysis -- both of which are troubling to Freudenthal.
"I wonder if this is just adding on a layer," he said. "It's not quite clear to me whether this is a step forward or if it's just dragging more people into a complicated area."
The governor said he has been receiving e-mails, primarily from conservation groups, saying the rule is a bad idea. He said none of the e-mails have detailed what the rule entails.
"Maybe there's more to this," he said, "but maybe there's not."
Environmental reporter Whitney Royster can be reached at (307) 734-0260 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Obama could probably eat a baby in the Rose Garden on camera and his zombies would cheer."