The Bush administration yesterday issued a new rule that has the potential to open up 58 million acres of remote and pristine national forestland to road development, oil and gas exploration and timbering.
The action, which ended a 4-year-old ban imposed at the very end of the Clinton administration, was immediately pilloried by environmental groups saying it puts many of the nation's last, best places at risk.
The new rule gives state governors 18 months to identify areas that should remain roadless and petition the secretary of agriculture to develop management regulations for those "unroaded" national forest areas in their states. The agriculture secretary is free to ignore or amend a governor's petition and implement a management plan that may or may not allow development of the area, informs Post- Gazette.
According to ABC News, governors can submit petitions within 18 months to stop road building on some of the 34.3 million acres where it would now be permitted or request that new forest management plans be written to allow the construction on some of the other 24.2 million acres.