Road less traveled

Predictably, the Clinton administration’s roadless area policy, the product of years of input from millions of Americans, as well as extensive scientific review, is under attack by Bush and his logging, energy and mining industry buddies.

The arguments presented against the roadless areas are as tired and lame as they are false. “We can’t fight forest fires without roads, everything’s gonna burn!” they clamor. And the oxymoronic, “We have to cut the trees to save them from insects and fires.” Gee, isn’t that kind of like, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”?

Forests do just fine and have for thousands of years, thank you very much, without “management” by humans. In fact, humans cause 90 percent of wild land fires, according to the Forest Service. It has been shown by scientific studies that regardless of the logging method, areas that are partly cut burn more intensely and suffer more tree mortality than unmanaged areas. The “insect- and disease-infested” forests recently invented by the logging industry in their scare campaign will continue to survive through cycles of damage and recovery, with even the dead trees providing habitat for animals and increasing soil fertility.

What about access, they whine. Surely we can’t deny every American their God-given right to drive over every inch of the landscape? So, we must pave the wilderness in order that everyone may drive there, thereby destroying the very thing they are purporting to seek! There are certainly plenty of accessible options out there for people who want to use the woods for motorized recreation. Roadless areas never had roads in the first place because they consist mostly of steep, unstable terrain where roads are difficult and expensive to build and maintain. Now that the easily accessible forestlands are getting logged out, the logging industry wants to extend its reach (via roads provided by the Forest Service with our tax dollars no less) into hitherto unexploited areas. The impacts of roads and logging would be even greater in these areas, due to the increased erosion clogging streams and polluting watersheds.

Under the Clinton policy, the roadless areas will continue to provide clean water, wildlife habitat, fisheries and recreation for future generations. This is a good policy, backed by sound scientific data and overwhelming public support. It deserves to stand.