May 28, 2009

Idaho Exempted From New Roadless Directive

Senators pleased that Idaho plan stays intact

Boise, ID - Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo say they are pleased that a new U.S. Forest Service directive on roadless areas will exclude Idaho. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that no road construction or timber removal will take place on National Forests under the Roadless Area Conservation Rule without approval from the Secretary for one year.

"Idahoans worked hard through a collaborative process to put together a roadless plan that made sense for our state. It was a plan crafted by a variety of wildland users and interest groups that built in higher levels of protection for some lands that truly deserved it, and allowed multiple use of other lands where it fit. This is how conflicts in public lands management should be resolved, and not by politics and a "one size fits all" approach by those in Washington, D.C.," said Risch.

"We certainly prefer locally-crafted public lands management policy and appreciate that the Idaho Roadless Rule has gained Administration acceptance," said Senator Mike Crapo. "I applaud the collaborative efforts that Senator Risch undertook while Governor and believe that this is yet another example of how these policies can be best developed."

In 2006 then-Governor Risch created five management themes for the 9.3 million acres of Idaho roadless areas based on local and statewide input. Nearly 1.5 million acres of land received the "wild land recreation" designation, prohibiting roadbuilding, mining and timber harvest in those areas. Approximately 1.8 million acres were designated as "primitive," which allow some timber harvesting only for forest health or species habitat improvement.

Over 48,000 acres were set aside for historic or tribal significance and 5.3 million acres were classed as "backcountry/restoration" areas. On these lands temporary roads could only be built to improve species habitat or to reduce fuels in areas near at-risk communities. The "general forest, rangeland and grassland" category had 406,000 acres and only allows for timber harvest and road building if it met requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The plan was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service for rulemaking and public comment. The plan was modified to prohibit commercial logging in some areas, a change supported by Risch, and in late 2008 the rule was published in the Federal Register.

# # #