Office of the Press Secretary
October 13, 1999
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE
SUBJECT: Protection of Forest "Roadless" Areas
At the start of this century, President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated this Nation to the conservation of natural resources-- our land, our water, our wildlife, and all theother precious gifts nature had bestowed upon us. One ofAmerica's great central tasks, he declared, is "leaving thisland even a better land for our descendants than it is for us."
In pursuit of that goal, President Roosevelt established new protections for millions upon millions of acres across America. His remarkable legacy includes 5national parks, 18 national monuments, and dozens of wildlife refuges. Among his most notable conservation achievements were the consolidation of 65million acres of Federal forest reserves into the National Forest System, and the creation of the UnitedStates Forest Service to ensure wise stewardship of these lands for future generations. In this effort, he was guided by Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service and a founder of America's conservation movement.
Today, the National Forest System has grown to 192million acresof forests and grasslands in 46 States and territories. These lands provide a broad array of benefits to the American people. They support rural industries, sustain fish and wild-life, generate drinking water for 60million Americans, and provide important recreation opportunities to an increasingly urban population.
Over the years, unfortunately, our Nation has not always honoredPresident Roosevelt's vision. Too often, we have favored resource extraction over conservation, degrading ourforests andthe critical natural values they sustain. Asthe consequences of these actions have become more apparent,theAmerican people have expressed growing concernandhave called on us to restore balance to theirforests.
My Administration has made significant strides in improving themanagement of our Federal forestlands. Beginning with theadoption of a comprehensive, science-based forest plan for the Pacific Northwest, we have sought to strengthen protections forwildlife, water quality, and other vital ecological values, while ensuring a steady, sustainable supply of timber and other commodities to support stable rural economies. The new forest planning regulation proposed last month represents another major step in that direction.
It is time now, I believe, to address our next challenge-- thefate of those lands within the National Forest System thatremain largely untouched by human intervention. A principal defining characteristic of these lands is that theydo not have, and in most cases never have had, roads acrossthem. We know from earlier inventories that there aremore than 40million acres of "roadless" area within the National Forest System, generally in parcels of 5,000acres or more. A temporary moratorium on road building in most of these areas has allowedus time to assess their ecological, economic, andsocialvalues and to evaluate long-term options for their management.
In weighing the future of these lands, we are presented withaunique historic opportunity. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Sierra Nevada, these are some of the last, bestunprotected wildlands in America. They are vital havens for wildlife-- indeed, some are absolutely critical to the survival of endangered species. They are a source of clean, fresh water for countless communities. They offer unparalleled opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters, anglers, and others to experience unspoiled nature. In short, these lands bestow upon us unique and irreplaceable benefits. They are a treasured inheritance – enduring remnants of an untrammeled wilderness that once stretched from ocean to ocean.
Accordingly, I have determined that it is in the best interest ofour Nation, and of future generations, to provide strong andlasting protection for these forests, and I am directing youtoinitiate administrative proceedings to that end.
Specifically, I direct the Forest Service to develop, and propose forpublic comment, regulations to provide appropriatelong-term protection for most or all of these currently inventoried "roadless" areas, and to determine whether such protection is warranted for any smaller "roadless" areas not yetinventoried. The public, and all interested parties, shouldhave the opportunity to review and comment on the proposed regulations. In the final regulations, the nature anddegree of protections afforded should reflect thebest available science and a careful consideration of the full rangeof ecological, economic, andsocial values inherent inthese lands.
I commend you, along with the Undersecretary for Natural Resources and theEnvironment, Jim Lyons, the Chief of the Forest Service, MichaelDombeck, and the entire Forest Service for your leadership instrengthening andmodernizing the management ofour Federal forests-- landsheld by us in trust for all Americans and for future generations. With the new effort we launch today, we canfeel confident that we have helped to fulfill and extend the conservation legacy of TheodoreRoosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, and to ensure that the21st century is indeed anew century for America's forests.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
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