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For the week of Oct. 20, 1999 through Oct. 26, 1999

Clinton’s wilderness legacy


Idaho’s senators and congressmen are livid about President Clinton’s order that could result in preservation of two-thirds of the nation’s remaining roadless forests.

Last week, the president directed the U.S. Forest Service to develop a long-term protection plan for the nation’s roadless areas. Proposed regulations would be subject to review and comment by the public.

Good for Clinton. Too bad about the Idaho delegation’s blood pressure.

The president is forcing the nation to look at protecting the last of its wilderness.

The minds of Idaho’s senators and congressmen have been made up for a long time anyway. They cringe at the idea of more wilderness, preferring instead to call for more roads and more timber cuts to subsidize the remaining 2,500 timber jobs in the state.

The wilderness debate in Idaho has been on hold since the 2.4-million-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness was created in 1980. Subsequent efforts to set aside additional wilderness— including land in the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains and the Pioneer Mountains near Ketchum—subsequently failed.

Since then, the bulldozers and chainsaws have been eating away at some of Idaho’s most beautiful roadless areas. The bulldozers have been held off in some areas only by desperate and temporary guerrilla legal actions brought by desperate conservation groups.

The president could and should resolve the debate before more wild lands are lost.

If he succeeds, Idaho could see 9.4 million acres of roadless areas protected from road building, logging and mining in addition to an existing 4 million acres of federally designated wilderness.

Nationally, about 60 million acres of the 192 million acres of federal forest are free of roads. Clinton’s order could protect 40 million acres.

Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia sniped, "The president’s trying to be Teddy Roosevelt."

This is an insult? The Democrat in the White House should be ashamed of following in the footsteps of a Republican president who loved the outdoors?

Roosevelt protected 132 million acres by designating them as national parks, national monuments and wildlife refuges.

The real question for history will be whether Presidents Roosevelt and Clinton protected enough national forest from the inroads of civilization.

We hope the president is serious and that he leaves the nation with a lasting legacy of protected wilderness.

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.