Friday, May 29, 2009

Vilsack Issues Temporary Order on "Roadless" Areas

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has issued a temporary order governing development in "roadless" areas of national forests, requiring all new projects to be approved by him personally. The directive provides decision-making authority to the Secretary over proposed forest management or road construction projects in inventoried roadless areas. The U.S. Forest Service is a division of USDA. The Obama administration and Congress will now try to create a permanent policy on roadless regions.

The U.S. Forest Service, with jurisdiction over the National Forests and Grasslands, makes decisions about what projects can take place on those lands. In simultaneously upholding and overturning the 2001 Clinton roadless rule, the courts have created confusion and made it difficult for the U.S. Forest Service to do its job. The directive will ensure that USDA can carefully consider activities in these inventoried roadless areas while long term roadless policy is developed and relevant court cases move forward.

This interim directive changes procedural requirements for Forest Service projects in inventoried roadless areas. It does not prevent the Secretary from either approving projects that he believes are in the interest of forest stewardship or prohibiting projects he believes are not. The Secretary will work closely with the US Forest Service to implement this interim directive. (Wash Post, 5/29/09, Dept of Agri)

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