Directive calls timeout on ‘roadless’ forest projects

May 29, 2009

(ChattahBox) — The Obama administration announced Thursday that no new timber-cutting or road project could begin in roadless areas of national forests without the permission of the secretary of agriculture. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued the so-called temporary order or ‘timeout’, which will be in effect for a year, and require all new projects to be approved by him personally. President Bill Clinton made over 58.5 million acres of pristine woods¬† off-limits in 2001, but President George W. Bush effectively reopened some in 2005,¬† allowing the states to decide which roadless areas should continue to get protection. Environmental groups say these areas serve as crucial natural filters for rivers and streams, key habitats for fish and animals such as grizzly bears, and “sinks” that take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. During the timeout, the Obama administration will now push Congress to create a permanent policy on roadless regions. The order is not meant to be an outright ban as projects aimed at protecting watersheds, planting trees, or stopping forest fires might be permitted. The official said it was unclear whether projects with a strictly commercial aim, such as logging or mining, would be allowed.

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