Photo of Idaho's Scotchman Peaks by D Taylor
A new state policy that recently went into effect has removed nearly all protection to over 400,000 acres of national forest, and has opened millions of acres of roadless forests to construction, logging and mining across Idaho. The policy has been denounced by the Wilderness Society, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and other regional and national conservation groups. The policy leaves a vital national forest vulnerable to a host of environmentally damaging activities.The new policy was enabled by the Bush administration, which pushed for a new Idaho-specific rule that now replaces the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule—an act that protected over 58 million acres in 44 states.
According to the Wilderness Society, the new Idaho specific rule enables the following:
• Removes virtually all protection from 400,000 acres of roadless forests in the state allocated to general forest management
• Allows new road construction in an additional 400,000 acres of roadless land located near communities
• Allows environmentally destructive phosphate mining with its associated selenium poisoning of streams to occur in roadless lands near Yellowstone National Park
• Creates additional exceptions for road building and logging to occur within the 5 million acres to be classified as "backcountry"
• Would result in 15,000 acres of logging and 50 miles of road construction in Idaho roadless areas during the next 15 years in order to haul out 75 million board feet of logs -- or 15,000 truck loads, according to Forest Service estimates
• Creates a different management framework for Idaho roadless areas different than any other national forests, leading to administrative confusion, uncertainty and paperwork.
Additionally, there are concerns that the lands losing protection are part of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, though they’re not technically in the bounds of that national forest. But an adverse impact on the greater area may lead to an ecological imbalance in Yellowstone itself. This disconcerting policy is yet another disturbing reminder of the Bush administration’s attitude towards national parks—as if opening 3 million acres to logging in Alaska and seeking to approve a 700 percent increase in logging in Oregon old growth forests wasn’t enough.
More on Bush Administration and National Parks:
US Environmental Destruction Agency: Making National Parks Coal-Friendly
Is George Bush a Closet Green?