More roads in national forests is not the answer

By STEVE BONOWSKI, a member of REP’s Colorado Chapter

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Letter to the editor of the Rocky Mountain News, July 23, 2004


As a member of the conservative group Republicans for Environmental Protection, I must object to the News editorial of July 14 praising the Bush administration reversal of the Clinton roadless policy for the U.S. national forests.

At this time, the Forest Service has more than 380,000 miles of recognized roads, plus an estimated 50,000 additional miles of illegal routes created by off-road vehicle users. The service has a maintenance backlog estimated at more than $8 billion as many miles of these roads sink into disrepair. There is no overwhelming need to create even more miles of roads when the service is unable to maintain what they already have. 

Timber harvesting in the backcountry is not an answer to the fire situation in the city/forest interface. Studies have shown that logged areas are far more prone to wildfires than are untouched backcountry forests.

The service’s timber program is also a bad deal for taxpayers. 

Between 1998 and 2002, it cost the government more than $140 million to build roads for timber companies. 

The News quotes Montana Gov. Judy Martz as saying that “state, local and tribal governments are best equipped to make key decisions about the future of our public lands.”

I agree that Martz is correct if the sole purpose of public lands is to subsidize the big timber and energy companies at taxpayer expense.