Wild Forest Protection Plan
How the Roadless Plan Hits Home
by Jenny Coyle
How are forest activists across the country taking the news of President
Clinton's roadless area plan?
Personally, that's how.
To the average citizen, "roadless areas" may sound vague. But to
Club activists like Mark Pearson and Gordon Smith, who have been fighting to protect some
of these wildlands, they are special treasures.
"Everyone is jazzed by the president's proposal and we're ready to
devote a ton of energy generating a lot of public comment in favor of it," said
Pearson, a Rocky Mountain (Colorado) Chapter member who has been involved in numerous
efforts to protect wildlands. He's also chair of the Club's national Wildlands Campaign
Pearson said Colorado's 150,000-acre Hermosa roadless area - the largest
roadless area in the southern Rockies - is the perfect example of a wildland that could be
protected by the plan.
"Hermosa has the best pockets of old-growth ponderosa pine in the San
Juan Mountains," he said. "It's been a focus of our attention for 25 years. A
greater level of protection might mean we don't have to keep filing appeals, holding
rallies and sending in postcards to fight off timber sales, new roads, mineral-leasing
proposals and ski-area expansions."
Colorado's highest peak, 14,433-foot Mt. Elbert, is part of a 19,000-acre
roadless area that is not protected from destructive activities despite its recreation
values, said Pearson. "Most of the mountain is above the timberline, but below that
is lodgepole pine that should be placed off-limits to logging."
Meanwhile, Alaska activists say they'll work hard to see that the Tongass
National Forest is included in the roadless area study.
"It's great to see the administration and the Forest Service taking
the lead to protect these pristine places. Some of Alaska's most productive salmon runs
are in roadless areas," said Scott Anaya, a forest activist in the Alaska Chapter and
a member of the national Wildlands Campaign Committee. "But there's no scientific
reason to exclude the Tongass. It's just political."
In Minnesota, where logging for pulp on national forests has tripled since
1975, activist Clyde Hanson of the North Star Chapter is hopeful that the plan will create
a protective buffer around the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area.
"Right now they're logging right up to the border of Boundary Waters,
almost as a political statement," said Hanson. "Some of the logging sites are
visible from within the wilderness, and you can hear the trucks. That really impacts the
wilderness experience, and the wildlife that live there. We've been telling the Forest
Service to stop managing for timber harvest and start managing for recreation. Maybe with
this new proposal we have a chance."
A similar approach - letting a roadless area serve as a buffer zone -
could also benefit the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in North Carolina.
Gordon Smith, the Sierra Club's representative on the Southern Appalachian
Forest Coalition, said there are several roadless areas ranging in size from 3,000 to
7,000 acres that could enhance the wilderness area if protected under Clinton's plan.
The coalition has made it a priority to educate the public about these
"Some of the wilderness areas are overused," he said. "The
roadless areas aren't as well known and the Forest Service doesn't sign them as well or
maintain the trails. We've produced brochures including a trail map and narrative in order
to encourage people to hike in the roadless areas in Pisgah National Forest."
Grizzly bears could benefit if roadless areas in the Northern Rockies
Ecosystem (Montana, Wyoming and Idaho) were given stronger protections, said Jennifer
Ferenstein, a Montana activist and national Sierra Club Board member.
She said the 100,000-acre Great Burn roadless area links the Northern
Rockies to the Salmon-Selway Ecosystem, providing a migratory corridor for the bears.
"But it's threatened by proposals for logging and off-road vehicle use," said
Ferenstein. "The plan must protect this key grizzly bear habitat."
Mark Lawler, National Forest Committee chair for the Cascade (Washington)
Chapter, said the plan would also aid wildlife in Washington's 150,000-acre Meadows
Roadless Area, home of the largest lynx population in the Lower 48.
"It's really something to have this kind of initiative taken by a
sitting president in my lifetime," said Lawler. "We need to seize this
opportunity and push for the strongest possible stance from the White House."
Up to Top