Forest Service chief: Roadless rule will take effect this weekend


WASHINGTON (AP) – Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth assured members of a Senate committee Tuesday that a sweeping ban on road-building on a third of the nation’s forests will take effect Saturday, even as the administration works to revise the rule.

The administration announced Friday that it would implement the Clinton-era policy that would prohibit logging and road-building, except in rare circumstances, on 58.5 million acres of federal forests. But the administration also promised it would amend the rule to allow more local influence on the process.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Bosworth how revising the rule – and the public comment period that then will be required – would effect its implementation.

”On May 12th, the roadless rule will go into effect,” Bosworth told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

He said he’d envision an opportunity for people with local knowledge to be able to make adjustments and correct parts of the rule, including some maps.

”We’ll have to see what kind of comments we get back on our proposal to amend the rule to see what kind of adjustments we make,” he added.

The rule, issued by President Clinton in early January, is facing legal challenges across the country, including in Idaho where the state and timber company Boise Cascade have asked a federal court to block it. The state of Idaho, saying the Bush administration is not going far enough, renewed its request Monday. The judge could rule as early as this week.

Conservationists, who greeted the decision to implement the ban with skepticism and cautious optimism, have expressed concerns that the proposed changes, expected in June, could weaken the policy.

Meanwhile, Western Republicans and the timber industry have been critical of the rule, which they considered a blanket mandate from Washington rather than an approach that considers specific forests. Generally, they hailed the administration’s decision to revise the rule, though some weren’t entirely pleased it would take effect.

”We need to take a long, hard look, obviously, at these roadless protections,” said Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo.

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