Blinded by the "W" word
The Idaho Conservation League, one of Idahos
strongest advocacy groups, says President Clintons roadless initiative is not
Why? The "W" wordwilderness--isnt part of it.
The stance may be a wily political ploy intended to make it appear that no
one is wholly happy with the initiative so that Clinton can strike the middle ground. Or,
its an extension of the environmentalists dilemma in deciding whether the
glass is half full or half empty.
We suspect its the latter.
The initiative could ensure protection of 9.4 million acres in Idaho and
up to 40 million acres nationwide.
The initiative would end road building in roadless areas in national
forests. It would end maintenance on many existing roads. However, it would allow
continuation of logging by helicopter in some areas.
Idaho Conservation League director Rick Johnson criticized the proposal at
the Wild Idaho! Conference at Redfish Lake two weeks ago. He said continuation of any kind
of logging is unacceptable and that roadless areas should be designated as nothing less
Johnsons criticism was consistent with the ICLs historical
all-or-nothing stance on wilderness. The "W" word seems to have blinded Johnson
and other purists to what is politically possible. Taken too far, the stance could end up
opening more lands to logging and development than it protects.
Logging and mining are virtually impossible without roads. Logs and ore
dont float to mills without trucksbig ones. Logging by helicopter is difficult
and wildly expensive.
The presidents initiative will make roadless areas de facto
wilderness. They will lack little but the name.
The initiative will free roadless areas from the limbo they have occupied
for more than two decadescaught between conservationists and loggers, miners and
Conservationists fought the fight. They tenaciously waged battle after
battle over Idahos wild areas. Forest by forest, appeal by appeal, lawsuit by
lawsuit, they used all the tools of law. Sometimes they won, but sometimes they lost.
Luckily this president, in his final year in office, wants to wield the
power of the executive orderto end the war over roadless areas. Nationwide, of 192
million acres of federal forest lands, just 60 million acresless than
one-thirdare free of roads.
When final, the presidents order will supersede Congress, and the
deal-making and posturing that often leave wilderness bills looking like Swiss cheese.
The order will bypass the Idaho delegation, for whom wilderness is
anathema. It will give conservationists most of what they fought for.
The permanent protection isnt perfect, but its politically
possible With just seven months to go until President Clinton leaves office, the ICL wants
The glass is half full. Conservationists should drink up with joy.