Supporters of the roadless rule, like many other progressive groups and activists, are happy to see the changing of the guard in the White House.
In a conference call with reporters, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, joined environmental activists to support stronger action by President-elect Barack Obama to protect the 58 million acres of national forest roadless areas in the United States. Grijalva is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
Grijalva noted that Obama was a strong supporter of the roadless rule while campaigning for president. He also noted there was strong support for the roadless rule when it was first instituted in 2001.
“Recall back that back during the public comment period for the roadless rule,” Grijalva said, “has been the most extensive in the history of the Forest Service.”
Mike Dombeck, the U.S. Forest Service chief at the time the roadless rule was instituted, echoing Grijalva’s comments about the vast public support for the roadless rule in 2001, said, “It was the most intensive public outreach process and public input process int he history of the Forest Service. Over a three year period, over 600 public meetings, over a million and half comments, with well over 90 percent continually pushing for more protection.”
Asked why the Obama administration should do something, Dombeck said it was simple. “It’s all about keeping wild places wild,” he said, citing that 10,000 acres a day of land is being developed every day.
Answering what specifically the supporters of the roadless rule want Obama to do when he takes office next Tuesday, William Meadows, the president of the Wilderness Society, said, “Ultimately what we want to see is an administrative acknowledgment that the roadless areas in our national forests need to be maintained as Mike Dombeck and others worked so rigorously to set out in 2000 and 2001 when the rule was adopted.”
Overall, they seemed to be looking forward to Obama, and possibly the new Congress, repealing some of the setbacks implemented to the roadless bill over the last eight years.