Bush roadless policy a threat to local economy | AspenTimes.com

Bush roadless policy a threat to local economy

Aspen Times writer

President George W. Bush did the Roaring Fork valley a disservice by overturning the roadless area protections that affect approximately 640,000 acres of the White River National Forest.Nationwide, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule placed 58.5 million acres of federal land off-limits to logging, gas-drilling and road-building. The roadless rule, like other environmental protections, is important to our recreation-based economy, which depends on clear skies, clean rivers and pristine forests.President Bush has shown a broad disregard for environmental protections like the roadless rule. He has sought to undo much of America’s clean air and clean water legislation, and seems focused almost exclusively on increasing oil and gas production to satisfy America’s unending appetite for fossil fuels. The Bush administration’s policies in this area have already scarred much of Western Colorado.In order to open even more federal land to commercial and industrial uses, the Bush administration is handing over its decision-making powers over tens of millions of acres of federal lands to a handful of Western governors. According to the new rules, the only way a roadless area will remain roadless is if the governor of that state requests that the protections remain in place. In most Western states, the Republican governors are likely to toe the Bush administration line of “drill it.” And protections in the White River National Forest will disappear unless Gov. Bill Owens takes action to retain them. We’d rather not leave it to him.The White River National Forest, like every other forest under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service, belongs to residents of Florida, Texas and Massachusetts as much as it belongs to Coloradans, yet the Bush plan gives complete control over the future of roadless areas to our governor.The White River is one of the most visited national forests in the country. Millions of visitors come to ski on our mountains, hike in our woods, watch and hunt our wildlife, and fish our streams. But it won’t remain that way if these lands are crisscrossed with new roads to remote logging sites and drilling pads. The roadless rule, while controversial, was the result of a five-year process of scientific study and public input. For this administration to undo the rules in order to extract more oil and gas is shortsighted.Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Pat O’Donnell recently wrote “The Roaring Fork Valley is a premier destination resort because of the health and beauty of our nearby wilderness. Aspen Skiing Co. is emphatically opposed to changes in the roadless rule.”We couldn’t agree more.

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