Multinational Monitor

MAY 2001
VOL 22 No. 5


Rollback: The Corporate Regulatory Feeding Frenzy
Foreward by
Monitor Staff

Bush's Corporate Cabinet
by Charlie Cray

The Repetitive Motion Un-Rule
by Deborah Weinstock

Arsenic and Old Regs
by Lynn Thorp

The Roadless Tramelled
by Ned Daly

Bankrupt Policies
by Jake Lewis

Bush’s Hot Air
by Phil Radford

Mining Their Own Business
by Charlie Cray

Defending Contractor Irresponsibility
by Robert Weissman

A Regulatory Accident in the Making
by Charlie Cray

Cheney and Halliburton: Go Where the Oil Is
by Kenny Bruno
and Jim Valette


The Politics and Law of Worker Rights
an interview with
William Gould


Behind the Lines

Challenging the Oiligarchy

The Front
Medical Privacy, For Now

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


The Roadless Tramelled

by Ned Daly

Caught up in the Bush administration’s across-the-board delay of pending regulations was a rule to ban roadbuilding in 58.5 million acres of roadless national forest land — an area larger than all U.S. national parks combined — including 9.3 million acres in Alaska.

Forest activists say the stakes in the Bush review of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule could not be higher. “In the war over federal land management between the timber industry and environmentalists, there are no greater spoils than the last remaining roadless areas,” says Mike Roselle, director of Greenpeace USA’s forest campaign.

To conservationists, these areas represent big habitat, necessary for charismatic megafauna such as grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, bull trout and wolverines. To the timber industry, roadless areas represent big trees — high-quality timber in large tracts.

“In the case of the roadless policy, USDA [Department of Agriculture] is conducting a review of the rule which contains hundreds of pages of complex technical documents,” says Chris Barone of the Forest Service’s Office of Communications.

But proponents of the rule say further review is unnecessary and simply a way for the Bush Administration to delay implementation. “There was more opportunity for input and public comment than any rulemaking by the federal government,” says Todd True, a staff attorney with the EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund. “Claims that this rule was short on process are ludicrous.”

The Clinton administration began developing a roadless policy in January 1998, when Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck proposed a moratorium on roadbuilding in most inventoried roadless areas. After a public comment period, an 18-month moratorium was adopted in February of 1999. One year later, The Forest Service issued a draft rule and environmental impact statement for public comment. In the review process, the Forest Service held more than 600 public meetings and received 1.7 million comments. The vast majority of the comments supported the rule.

The strong public record in support of the rule, the obvious environmental benefits and economic trends in the West isolate a few timber companies as the beneficiaries of any attempts by the Bush administration to repeal the rule.

“The benefits of cutting timber in roadless areas would be quite narrow,” says Spencer Phillips, an economist with the Wilderness Society. “By and large the economies out west have become far more complex than ‘trees equal jobs,’ but the folk economics of the timber industry die hard.”

In Montana, one of twelve states that The Wilderness Society studied, 10 to 20 jobs — 0.004 percent of the state’s total economy — could be affected by the plan.
Still, western Republicans in Congress and the administration would like to see the rule suspended. Rescinding the rule would require the administration to undergo a review process similar to the one that established the rule. Since this process could take years to complete, opponents of the rule are looking for an alternative approach.

Congress has several options to stop the policy from moving forward, including the Congressional Review Act, part of the Contract with America, which allows Congress to overturn new regulations. Congress might also include language overriding the regulation in unrelated legislation.

The timber industry is also looking to the courts for repeal of the rule. Boise-Cascade, one of the largest benefactor’s of subsidized federal lands logging, is the lead plaintiff in a suit to block implementation. Mike Moser, communications director with Boise Cascade, says Boise brought the suit for three reasons. “First, it is bad policy, a top-down approach. Local communities were not given an opportunity for input. Second, the rule circumvents the U.S. Congress by creating de facto wilderness. Third is an issue regarding access. In order to combat forest health problems — disease, insect infestation and fires — there should be access to these areas.”

“In Idaho alone, there were 40 hearings” responds EarthJustice’s Todd True, who also points out that the type of land protection afforded the roadless areas is very different from wilderness areas, and that there are exemptions in the roadless rule for fire suppression.

EarthJustice, an intervenor in the Boise-Cascade case and another legal challenge to the rule, sees the administration supporting Boise’s position. Instead of defending the rule in court, the Bush administration has offered to further suspend the rule in exchange for time to file its response to Boise Cascade’s motion for a preliminary injunction. In three hearings in the Boise case, the administration has failed to defend the rule. The judge in the case said he would not grant the temporary injunction until the administration commented on the case.

To date, the Bush administration has used the administrative process to delay the rule, and now seems willing, through its own neglect, to have the rule overturned in court. But in May, the administration will have to either state its opposition to the rule — and overwhelming public sentiment — or agree to defend the rule in court.

Ned Daly is the forests policy director at the Consumers Choice Council.

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