In contradicting moves today, the Obama administration’s Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior made major announcements to protect and degrade roadless wildlands.
Undersecretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced plans to allow logging and road-building in a roadless wildland bordering the Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska. By green-lighting the Orion timber sale in the Tongass National Forest, hundreds of acres of temperate rainforest will be clearcut and new logging roads will slice into pristine Alaskan wildlands.
It is estimated the logging project will lose four times as much taxpayer money as it generates from timber sales at a time when the federal budget deficit is ballooning under strain from the economic crisis.
Flying squarely in the face of public opinion, the move sets a dangerous precedent allowing the first logging in roadless wildlands since the Bush administration. Greenpeace is pursuing legal action to stop the Orion timber sale.
On the same day, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew what the Interior Department called a "legally flawed" Bush-era logging plan for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forests in Oregon. The sweeping proposal, called the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) would have slashed environmental safeguards across 2.6 million acres of public forestlands. The WOPR proposed the logging of thousands of acres of old-growth forests, including the largest unprotected roadless forest on BLM lands in the nation - the 46,000 acre Zane Grey Roadless Area. In 2004, Greenpeace set up a Forest Rescue Station near the Zane Grey and carried out a series of actions to protest the WOPR. Greenpeace is also plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the WOPR.
"The Obama Administration can't have it both ways," said Rolf Skar, senior forest campaigner with Greenpeace. "President Obama needs to decide if he will follow the Bush administration down the path of roadless area destruction, or protect roadless wildlands like the American people want him to."
On the campaign trail, Obama supported the popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule created by the Clinton administration. To date, the federal government has received more than 2.5 million comments on the Roadless Rule; more than 95% of those comments favored protection for roadless forests.
"The support for protecting America's roadless wildlands is nearly universal" said Skar. "There is no reason the Obama administration should be subsidizing destructive, controversial logging of America's last great rainforest with taxpayer dollars."
Rolf Skar 415.533.2888
Greenpeace Forest Rescue Station and WOPR:
Tongass National Forest: