Wednesday, October 26, 2005

County extends deadline for roadless comments


By STEVE BENSON
Express Staff Writer

County commissioners have extended the period for public written comment regarding the future management of Blaine County's roadless areas from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15.

"We want to make sure that all Blaine County residents are given the opportunity to share their opinions on what changes should be made to the existing roadless areas plans and why," Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman said in a press release.

The public feedback is part of an ongoing process to formulate the Bush administration's "Final Rule," which is designed to establish permanent management plans for the nation's roadless areas, a system that includes more than 50 million acres of National Forest land.

President Bill Clinton's "Roadless Rule," which was created in 2001 to protect all roadless areas from future development, was overturned by the Bush administration in May 2005. Now, roadless areas across the country are susceptible to road building, mining, logging, development and energy projects.

County commissioners across the state are responsible for collecting public comment regarding the future of local roadless areas. They will use that feedback to issue recommendations to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne about future management plans. If Gov. Kempthorne agrees with any of the recommendations, he must petition Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, who will issue the final judgement.

According to a press release from the county commissioners, most of the public comments received from Blaine County residents have supported continued protection of the state's roadless areas.

"Even if you are happy with the status quo, it is important that you submit these comments to the commissioners so that we have a foundation to make our case to the governor," said Bowman.

Comments should be submitted to the commissioners' office using the "Roadless" form available at www.blainecounty.org, or by calling 788-5500. Comments will only be accepted through Nov. 15.

The commissioners' recommendations are due in Gov. Kempthorne's office by March 1.




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