The Bush administration today issued rules that could open up as many as 58.5 million acres of U.S. forestland to road building, logging, mining and other commercial purposes, clearing the last remnants of a ban imposed in 2001.
The U.S. Forest Service can begin allowing 34.3 million acres of national lands to be opened to road building as early as next week, and the rule gives state governors the option to request use for an additional 24.2 million acres. The Agriculture Department said states have 18 months to protest the changes.
The new rule reverses a regulation passed under President Bill Clinton that barred road building on about 30 percent of the roughly 192 million acres of forest and grassland managed by the Forest Service. A federal court ruled against the Clinton ban in 2001, the same year it was issued. Critics claim the new rule puts business interests ahead of the environment.
“The Bush administration is once again selling out to the logging and timber industry instead of siding with the American people, who want to protect our last wild forests,” said Deb Callahan, president of the League of Conservation Voters, a nonprofit group that promotes pro-environment laws and policies.