Behind the Roadless Green Curtain

insider's perspective by Tim Hermach, President, Native Forest Council

"The nation that destroys its soil
destroys itself."
—Franklin D. Roosevelt

A pseudo-environmental political campaign was concocted back in 1997 to "protect" nearly 60 million acres of unroaded backcountry in national forests. Launched with great fanfare and expensive publicity, President Clinton put the protection into effect during the very last days of his tenure in 2000. He could have implemented it at least 91 days before his term ended, but because he did not, it was left open for reversal by the incoming President Bush.

Although it was poor forest protection, even this "roadless rule" that failed to impede logging was too protective for the Bush Administration. This past month, on top of all the many other destructive things it has done to reward its corporate owners and harm nature, the administration repealed Clinton's national forest protection and replaced it with a rule that opens the gates ever wider to industry control and manipulation.

For the people, fish, wildlife and all other life forms depending on nature, it's a sad time. It is also a sad time because of the plague of morally and spiritually impoverished behavior inside the Beltway, such as politically compromised defenders of nature who have cynically decided the best way to protect nature is to focus on getting Democrats elected no matter how weak or timid they may be. If you looked behind the green curtain of all too many environmental campaigns, you would find the political players from big funders and compromising environmental groups and political lapdogs who are aiding and abetting by allowing extractive industries to continue to pillage, desecrate and destroy still more of our publicly owned forests and watersheds.

But not in the national forests' roadless areas—at least not in most of them, at least not in most cases, at least not until the grandfather clauses ran out of time. As constructed, this campaign was a politically clever and diversionary red herring in which not one tree and not one acre was truly protected, because of the loopholes and exceptions—such as the exclusion of uninventoried roadless areas, grandfather clauses for the Tongass and all uncut sales in the pipeline, roads to prevent insect infestations and fire and disease. It's as if they were putting up stop signs to protect people where there were no roads, while refusing to even discuss the need for stop signs on the roads and intersections where all the deaths were occurring.

At one point, President Clinton seriously embarrassed the campaign by admitting the roadless rule would not reduce logging one iota—that the implementation of this policy would affect less than 2 percent of the projected logging, and logging the already roaded areas where the biggest and most valuable trees were located would be increased to compensate. As if our priceless and irreplaceable forests, watersheds, fish and wildlife had not been dishonestly trashed enough already!

Since the time of Plato, humanity has been warned that environmental harm and destruction has occurred. Again, just last month, the "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment," an incredible report by 1,300 respected international scientists from 95 countries, stated in the strongest terms that we have destroyed too much of our earth and its soil, air and water, and that we are approaching dark times for humanity. With life on earth hanging in the balance, further compromise is simply unethical, immoral and wrong.