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White House Bans New Wilderness Roads for a Year

One of the Bush administration’s many efforts to hobble the nation’s environmental protections occurred in 2005, when President George W. Bush lifted a Clinton-era ban on new road-building on nearly 58 million acres of isolated forest and grassland.

Today, the Obama administration reinstated for one year the so-called “roadless rule” for roughly 50 million of those forested acres, largely in the Western states. Tom Vilsack, who heads the Department of Agriculture, said the moratorium is necessary to allow the administration to sift through a series of conflicting court cases, some upholding President Clinton’s ban and others overturning it.

“This interim directive will provide consistency and clarity that will help protect our national forests until a long-term roadless policy reflecting President Obama’s commitment is developed,” Vilsack said in a statement.

Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s Public Lands Protection Program, laid out in a statement some of the practical reasons for protecting these wilderness areas:

In additional to providing opportunities for quality recreation for millions of hikers, hunters and anglers, the wild areas protected by the Roadless Rule offer vital habitat for thousands of wildlife species. They also safeguard drinking water supplies for millions of Americans.

Of course, the nation’s loggers, Hummer enthusiasts and snowmobilers will likely be up in arms, ensuring that this battle is just beginning.

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