senate bill would protect 60 mln forest acres
- U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation that would protect
millions of acres of forest land from development-a move
that could further divide environmental groups and big
businesses who have hotly debated the future of this land.
The bill, introduced by a bipartisan group in the Senate,
would require the federal government to honor a Clinton-era
plan that restricted development of most roads and logging
on nearly 60 million acres (24 million hectares) of land.
roadless rule has been subject to intense debate since
President Bill Clinton signed the legislation just days
before leaving office.
legislation has attracted broad support in the Republican-led
House, with more than 170 lawmakers, including several
Republicans, backing the plan.
with this rule under legal challenge, I believe that it
is important to take another step forward with ensuring
that this rule is codified so that it has the full force
of law," said Sen. John Warner, a Virginia Republican
who co-sponsored the bill with six other lawmakers.
legislation would prohibit the construction of roads unless
necessary to protect the public from forest fires or other
natural disasters. Roads could also be built to provide
"essential" access to the public and to remove minerals
from public land under old leases that have not expired.
groups argue the rule is vital to protecting pristine
forest land from timber, mining and oil companies, which
cannot access the land without building roads.
USDA has received more than two million letters, faxes
and postcards supporting the rule, the most ever for a
federal environmental measure.
public overwhelmingly supports protecting national forests,"
said said Tiernan Sittenfeld, spokeswoman for the U.S.
Public Interest Research Group.
clear that many members of Congress are representing the
well-wishes of their constituents, and we urge the Bush
administration to do the same," she said.
Bush administration has said it would adopt the roadless
plan, but modify it to include more local input so changes
to the forest are made on a case-by-case basis.
year, a federal judge in Boise, Idaho, blocked the Bush
administration from carrying out the rule, calling the
administration's proposal to modify it a "Band Aid approach."
case is now before a federal appeals court in San Francisco.