Administration Backs Roadless Policy, But Plans Changes

The Bush administration announced it would be upholding former President Clinton's designation of about 60 million acres of national forest as off limits to logging and road building, effective May 12, but would subsequently be proposing amendments to the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

The amendments to be introduced in June would allow more input by local officials and interested parties, such as logging, oil and gas exploration and pipeline companies, into the rules governing activities and restrictions in individual park areas on a case-by-case basis. In announcing the changes, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said the proposed amendments would be aimed at "informed decision-making -- to ensure the rule is implemented with more reliable information and accurate mapping. This includes drawing on local expertise and experience through the local forest planning process.

"We will work with states, tribes, local communities and the public through a process that is fair, open and responsive to local input and information, Veneman said."Our proposed approach will maintain the protections of the current roadless rule while addressing the reasonable concerns about the rule."

Oil and gas producers and pipeline companies had opposed the additions to the protected areas proposed by Clinton, saying this would effectively put significant petroleum reserves off-limits and block pipeline projects.

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