December 8, 2005
Should Minnesotas Forests Be Deemed Road Less Once Again?
Recently there has been a national debate regarding our precious forests and woodlands. The repeal of a road less designation has affected not only Minnesota, but many other states as well. However, Minnesotans are facing a dilemma unlike other states where the solution is much more evident.
In 2001, Bill Clinton enacted regulations declaring 58 million acres of forest road less throughout the nation, including some 65,000, right here in Minnesota. Now, President Bush has dropped these protections and opened all of the previously guarded land up to logging, mining, and development.
Nearly a dozen other states are displeased with the new designation and in order to reinstate the road less status governors from each are petitioning to bring woodland conservation back to their states.
Among eco-conscious Minnesotans, this may seem like a natural response, however there is confusion over what would be the best plan of action and accordance among unexpected groups.
Sean Werly, with Friends of the Boundry Waters Wilderness, warns that land previously unavailable is now up for the taking. "For instance the Echo Trail logging project, which plans to cut 16,000 acres on the edge of the wilderness," explains, Werly. "That is left vulnerable and open because of this new national policy."
Republicans are satisfied with the new designation and that is why many environmental groups are taking an unusual opinion on the issue. Although conservationists are not happy with the new management plan they are concerned what a petition might bring about. Many are advocating leaving whatever protections are left and not advising for the governor to petition the status. Werly explains that most of the other states seeking a petition have democratic governors who are expected to establish even more protection after investigating the issue. However, environmentalists fear that reopening the issue could in fact result in less protection. Governor Pawlenty has requested an investigation be made by the stateâ€™s Forest Resources Council, on which sit environmentalists but also representatives from the timber industry, in order to recommend a petition or not.
Conservationists with Common Sense, based out of Ely, typically oppose positions taken by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, but this time they are in unusual agreement. Nancy McReady describes the situation as a can of worms they donâ€™t want to stir. The group fears that land still protected after the repeal would be opened up and that land currently available would be off limits.
Shawn Perich, an outdoor writer and member of the Forest Resources Council, states that
there are restrictions in place, protecting some of the land that had previously been deemed road less. But these are associated with the Superior and Chippewa Land Management Plans that are not as effective as stricter policies, however he doesnâ€™t feel the road less act would compensate for there shortcomings.
In my opinion Minnesota should have the best interest of the forest in mind. Where other states can immediately retaliate the weakened protection, I feel it is too uncertain a gain for a petition to be filed. The Forest Resources Council is not expected to recommend a petition and it seems that is probably the best decision for all involved. Perhaps in the future the current land management plan can be reinvestigated and strengthened to preserve the value and integrity of our priceless wilderness. Until then it seems that Minnesota should stick with whatever protections have been left.
Posted by at December 8, 2005 9:30 AM