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08/27/2009

Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Lays Out Ambitious Plan for America's Forests

A little less than two weeks ago, the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gave his first major speech regarding our national forests, a domain over which his department has jurisdiction.  The speech was an inspiring look at the direction that this administration plans to take managing our forests.  Vilsack laid out a vision for protection on both public and private forest lands, ensuring protections for roadless areas, addressing the challenges of climate change, and decreasing forest loss from development.

Tongass2

Photography copyrighted: John Hyde, Wild Things Photography

In terms of forest planning, Vilsack made the heartening announcement that the Forest Service would not appeal a court ruling which threw out Bush-era regulations.  That ruling, which you can read more about here, restored key protections granted under the National Forest Management Act.  Rather, the agency will write new regulations that promise to manage our forests in a responsible and balanced manner.

Just as importantly, Vilsack announced the intention of the Obama administration to defend the 2001 Roadless Rule.  They will seek to uphold it in court after the favorable decision earlier this month.  However, he also made clear that if it proves impossible to protect our roadless areas through the courts, the administration will do so through a new rulemaking process.  Currently, the 2001 Roadless Rule is in place in most parts of the country and is protecting more than 40 million acres of roadless areas.  However, several key areas included under the original 2001 rule are not protected, including Alaska's Tongass National Forest and roadless areas in Idaho.  Idaho and Colorado were two states that took advantage of the temporary Bush administration policy to create state-specific plans for roadlesss management.  While Idaho's plan is finalized, several organizations, including the Sierra Club, have filed suit.  Coloroado's roadless plan is still in draft form.

You can read Secretary Vilsack's full speech here.

Take action and tell the Obama administration to live up to its promise and uphold the 2001 Roadless Rule and protect our cherished roadless areas.

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