From; http://ens-news.com/ens/jun2002/2002-06-05-07.asp WASHINGTON, DC, June 5, 2002 (ENS) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill today that would enact the Clinton era Roadless Area Conservation Rule and protect almost 60 million acres of national forest lands from roadbuilding, logging and mining. The legislation would make an end run around Bush administration efforts to delay, weaken or eliminate the now suspended rule. The bill, written by Representatives Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, and Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican, has 173 original cosponsors, including California Democrat George Miller. "Americans told us they didn't want to see roadless areas disturbed, so now more than 170 House members are publicly supporting efforts to protect roadless areas," said Representative Miller at a press conference today to unveil the new legislation. "Both the timber industry and the Bush Administration know the public won't stand for undoing roadless area protection. The President and his advisors need to start listening to all Americans, not just Americans who own energy, mining and timber companies." Environmental groups, who are battling in court and in grassroots campaign across the nation, joined House members today to promote the bill to protect roadless areas. "The Administration is working aggressively to gut the rule and is moving forward with destructive timber sales and development projects in some of the nation's most pristine forests," said Brian Vincent, California organizer for the American Lands Alliance. "Today's legislation is necessary to ensure roadless areas receive protection from renewed logging and roadbuilding." The roadless area conservation rule was approved following years of scientific study and more than 600 public meetings across the country. To date, the Forest Service has received more than 2.2 million comments favoring roadless protection - almost 10 times more comments than those generated by any other proposed rule in American history. "Despite such overwhelming support, the administration has systematically undermined the roadless rule, first by delaying implementation of the rule then issuing directives that have essentially dismantled the plan," said Randi Spivak, executive director of American Lands. "As a result, the Forest Service is preparing destructive projects in roadless areas throughout the country." The Forest Service is currently planning to log 33 roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. In California, the agency has proposed logging or development projects in roadless areas on the Tahoe, Plumas and Los Padres National Forests. In Idaho, the agency is planning to log roadless areas on the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests. In addition, a number of national forest areas have been proposed for energy exploration and mining projects. "Americans deserve this strong bill to protect forests from the Tongass in Alaska to Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains," said Carl Pope, executive director of Sierra Club. "These increasingly scarce unspoiled places are crucial for providing quality hunting and fishing, for protecting watersheds that supply clean drinking water, for offering magnificent scenery and providing backcountry recreation, for our families, for our future." Roadless national forest lands also form watersheds that provide drinking water to millions of Americans and contain some of the best remaining fish and wildlife habitat in the entire national forest system, noted Buck Parker, executive director of Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest legal firm that specializes in environmental cases. The National Audubon Society says roadless forest lands form some of the last refuges for rare birds like the hermit warbler and white headed woodpecker. Supporters note that the new legislation would not completely ban road building, road reconstruction or economic uses of national forests. The legislation allows new roads to be constructed in specific circumstances, such as to fight fires or when other natural disasters threaten public safety. The bill does not close any existing roads or trails and allows full access for recreational activities. The legislation does not affect the right of access to property owned by states or individuals, allows logging of certain timber to reduce wildfire risk, and allows for the expansion of existing oil and gas operations.