15 AUG 2004 [EXPIRED]: Pristine mountain biking areas threatened by new rule

The following alert is being circulated by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA):
Roadless Alert
IMBA is calling on all mountain bikers to oppose a recent proposal from the U.S. Forest Service that would lessen protection of 58.5 million acres of national forest and open the door to road building and commercial logging.

The proposed rule, open for public comment until Sept. 14, would require governors to petition the federal government in order to block road building in inventoried Roadless Areas. This new rule would replace the previous Roadless Area Conservation Rule. All protections for Roadless Areas would end for states unless they petition the federal government within an 18-month period.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule of 2001 recognized the importance of protecting National Forests for their recreation, habitat and watershed values. The rule affected 38 states and Puerto Rico and helped protect large segments of National Forests. The rule was the result of the most extensive public participation process in rulemaking history, including more than 600 public hearings and 2.3 million comments - 95 percent in favor of strong Roadless protection.

"IMBA and mountain bikers are very concerned about environmental protection," said IMBA's senior national policy advisor Gary Sprung. "IMBA supported the Roadless Initiative in 2001 and is sad to see this proposed change in national policy. Our members want to protect pristine areas and the trails we love. We oppose road construction in the inventoried Roadless lands of National Forests."

"Roadless Areas are important for mountain biking and the singletrack experience we all love. We want to preserve that experience for future generations of cyclists," added Sprung. "Further, Roadless Areas are a great alternative to designated Wilderness as they allow bicycling while protecting the land."

IMBA urges mountain bikers to write a letter opposing the proposed rule.

Some points to make in your letter:

-Mountain bicyclists want to protect Roadless Areas. These provide the best opportunity for singletrack trails in a natural setting.

-I am one of 39 million Americans who participate in mountain biking every year.

-I prefer to recreate in Roadless Areas and encourage the Forest Service to give maximum protections to our nation?s 58.5 million acres of Roadless National Forests.

-A national policy for federal Roadless Areas is appropriate. Systemic protection of these areas should not be left to individual states. This is federal land that should be managed by Congress and the U.S. Forest Service.

-The state-by-state approach provides no guarantee of long-term protections for Roadless Areas.

-The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule had the most participation of any public rulemaking process in our nation's history. The proposed changes reject and ignore the overwhelming support for strong Roadless protections, despite hundreds of public hearings and more than two million comments.

-Our nation's forests already have 380,000 miles of roads. These roads are costly and in disrepair. Most existing roads are poorly constructed and maintained which leads to sedimentation and habitat fragmentation. More roads will only compound this problem.

-The health of the recreation and tourism industries are dependent on protecting wild places for the 149 million Americans who participate in outdoor recreation each year.

Comments must be received in writing by Sept. 14, 2004.

Written comments may be sent by the following methods:

Mail:
Content Analysis Team
ATTN: Roadless State Petitions
USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 221090
Salt Lake City, UT 84122
Fax: (801) 517-1014
E-mail: statepetitionroadless@fs.fed.us
Web: http://www.regulations.gov