Wednesday, October 13, 1999


"Today, we are launching one of the largest land-preservation efforts in America's history...Through this action, we will protect more than 40 million acres - 20 percent of the total forest land in America's national forests - from activities such as new road construction which would degrade the land. We will live up to the challenge Theodore Roosevelt laid down a century ago to leave this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us."

President Bill Clinton
Wednesday, October 13, 1999

Today, in a visit to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia, President Clinton announced a sweeping new effort to preserve millions of pristine acres within America's national forests The President has directed the U.S. Forest Service to propose regulations which would prohibit road building in more than 40 million acres of "roadless" area across the country. The President also called on Congress to fully fund his environmental budget priorities and to pass budget bills free of anti-environmental riders.

Protecting America's Last Wildlands. The National Forest system, established in 1905, today encompasses 192 million acres in 46 states and territories. Although much of the land within the national forests has been logged or otherwise developed, large portions remain relatively untouched. More than 40 million of these "roadless" acres have been identified, generally in parcels of 5,000 acres or more. These remote, pristine lands produce high-quality drinking water, provide critical wildlife habitat, and offer extraordinary recreational opportunities.

In February, the Forest Service placed an 18-month moratorium on road building within most "roadless" areas so that it could evaluate long-term options for managing them. Today, the President directed the Forest Service to develop and propose regulations to:

The proposed regulations would ban road building in these areas and could also prohibit logging or other activities that harm their unique ecological values. The Forest Service aims to release the proposed rule this spring and, following extensive public input, adopt a final rule in late 2000.

Restoring Balance to Our National Forests. Over the past seven years, the Clinton-Gore Administration has dramatically improved management of our national forests, working to end over-logging and timber road subsidies and strengthen protections for water quality, wildlife and recreation. In 1994, the President's Pacific Northwest Forest Plan broke the stalemate over the northern spotted owl, balancing the preservation of old-growth stands with the economic needs of timber-dependent communities. A proposal last month by the Forest Service would promote similar balance throughout the national forests, ensuring both stronger protection for water quality and wildlife, and steady, sustainable supplies of timber and other commodities.

Progress, Not Partisanship, on the Environment. In his balanced budget for FY 2000, President Clinton proposed major new investments to protect precious lands, fight air and water pollution, restore salmon and other wildlife, and combat global warming. His Lands Legacy initiative would guarantee, for the first time ever, a permanent fund for protecting and restoring lands across America. Yet Congress is denying full funding for these priorities, including slashing FY 2000 funding for Lands Legacy by two-thirds. At the same time, Congress is loading up budget bills with special-interest riders that permit over-logging on national forests, provide a windfall to major companies that produce oil on federal lands and waters, and allow more dumping of mining wastes on public lands. The President vowed that if the Interior budget bill is presented to him in its current form - with inadequate funding and loaded with anti-environmental riders - he will veto it.

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