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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 13, 1999
                            October 13, 1999

Today, in a visit to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia, President Clinton will launch a sweeping effort to preserve millions of pristine acres within America's national forests. A new rule to be proposed by the U.S. Forest Service would prohibit road building in more than 40 million acres of "roadless" area, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rockies to the Sierra Nevada. In addition, the President will call on Congress to fully fund his environmental budget priorities - including his Lands Legacy initiative, which would provide $1 billion to protect other precious lands - and to pass budget bills free of anti-environmental riders, or he will veto the bill.

Restoring Balance to Our National Forests. The National Forest system, established in 1905, today encompasses 192 million acres in 46 states and territories. Over the past seven years, the Clinton-Gore Administration has dramatically improved management of these forests, moving to end overlogging and timber road subsidies, and strengthen protections for water quality, wildlife and recreation. In 1994, the President's Pacific Northwest Forest Plan broke the stalemate over the northern spotted owl, balancing the preservation of old-growth stands with the economic needs of timber-dependent communities. A comprehensive planning regulation proposed last month by the Forest Service would promote similar balance throughout the national forests, ensuring both stronger protection for water quality and wildlife, and steady, sustainable supplies of timber and other commodities.

Protecting America's Last Wildlands. Although much of the land within the national forests has been logged or otherwise developed - and some remains set aside for these purposes - large portions are relatively untouched. These remote, pristine lands produce high-quality drinking water, provide critical wildlife habitat, and offer extraordinary recreation opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters, and anglers. Past inventories have identified more than 40 million of these "roadless" acres, generally in parcels of 5,000 acres or more.

In February, the Forest Service placed an 18-month moratorium on road building within most "roadless" areas so it could evaluate long-term options for managing them. Today, the President is directing the Forest Service to prepare and propose a rule to: - provide long-term protection for most or all of these previously inventoried "roadless" areas; and
- determine whether and how such protections should be extended to smaller "roadless" areas.
The proposed rule would ban road building in these areas and could also prohibit logging or other activities that harm their unique ecological values. The Forest Service aims to release the proposed rule this spring and, following extensive public input, adopt a final rule in late 2000.

Progress, Not Partisanship, on the Environment. In his balanced budget for FY 2000, President Clinton proposed major new investments to protect precious lands, fight air and water pollution, restore salmon and other wildlife, and combat global warming. His Lands Legacy initiative would commit $1 billion in FY 2000 - and seek permanent funding of at least that much in future years - to save natural treasures and to help communities protect farms, forests, urban parks, and other local green spaces. Yet Congress is denying full funding for these priorities - for instance, cutting FY 2000 funding for Lands Legacy by two-thirds. At the same time, Congress is loading up budget bills with special-interest riders that permit over-logging on national forests, provide a windfall to major companies that produce oil on federal lands and waters, and allow more dumping of mining wastes on public lands. The President will declare today that if the Interior budget bill is presented to him in its current form - with inadequate funding and loaded with anti-environmental riders - he will veto it.