State Taking Input On Roadless Area Management

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The federal government's July 2004 repeal of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule brought outcries from concerned citizens around the country.

The Oregon Natural Resources Council called the repeal "a dark day for Oregonians who value wildlands, wildlife and clean water."

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In the Rim Country, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was opposed by many outdoor enthusiasts who claimed it would limit their rights to use national forest land.

A July 15, 2004 editorial in the Kansas City Star read, "In another payoff to campaign contributors, the Bush administration has swept aside federal protections for the nation's forests."

The Heritage Forests Campaign claimed the rule shouldn't have been repealed because it was "a balanced policy that protected nearly 60 million acres of our nation's last wild forests."

The rule essentially prohibited new road construction, timber harvest and development within roadless areas on Forest Service land around America.

It did allow for construction of temporary roads in specific situations, such as fighting wild fires.

As loud as the outcry against the repeal was in America, the rule drew plenty of opposition when it was first signed into law in 2001 by President Bill Clinton.

Several states filed lawsuits over the rule and those with interests in mining, drilling and logging called it a death sentence to the industries.

In the Rim Country, the rule was opposed by many outdoor enthusiasts who claimed it would limit their rights to use national forest land.

Saving the forests

What has evolved from the original signing of the bill, the controversy and the repeal, is a revised rule that allows state governors to petition the Secretary of Agriculture with recommendations for specific management of roadless areas in respective states.

States have until November to complete the petition and submit it for approval.

In Arizona, Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Game and Fish department are in the process of developing the state's petition.

To help them put together the petition, a series of open houses will be held around the state during the next two months.

One of the meetings will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 12 at the Payson Inn conference room, 801 N. Beeline Highway.

At the meeting, Arizona Game and Fish officials will begin with a presentation on how roadless areas are now managed and what the future options are in overseeing some of the 1.2 million acres of roadless areas in the state's six national forests.

During the open house, there will be an opportunity to view maps, ask questions and submit written comments.

No oral comments will be taken.

E-mail comments can be submitted to roadless@azgfd.gov.

The open houses will be held in communities around Arizona including Safford, Tucson, Globe, Kingman, Prescott, Flagstaff and Pinetop.

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