Protect national forest roadless areas
By EVAN RICE, REP’s Minnesota State Coordinator
AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Evan gave this statement at a press conference in St. Paul on July 24, 2004.
Good morning, on this glorious, Minnesota, summer day.
My name is Evan Rice, and I’m here today in my capacity as the Minnesota State Coordinator for Republicans for Environmental Protection.
At the outset, I want to thank the organizers of this event for having the insight to understand the importance of looking past political stereotypes to recognize that there is a growing nucleus of Republicans — particularly here in Minnesota — who are anxious to find, build, and support a consent agenda in favor of genuine environmental protection. Although the common perception may be that our Republican Party is monolithic when it comes to environmental issues, the reality is that there is a rapidly growing body of Republicans that believe that conservation is conservative. And that maintaining the vitality of the Roadless Rule in particular is an important, practical part of that message.
We’re here today specifically to launch a campaign of public input and comment in favor of the preservation of roadless areas in our National Forests — and to oppose what I, and many others, believe to be misguided policies that (if they are allowed to become law) would mark a shameful retreat from our better instincts as a country. And with that in mind, I want to specifically encourage like-minded Minnesotans to make their voices heard for the protection of roadless areas — from the Superior National Forest here in our magical, Minnesota north woods, to the Tongass National Forest in the reaches of southeastern Alaska — continued protection of roadless areas (or reinstatement, in the case of the Tongass) is Good Politics, it’s Good Economics, and it’s Good Stewardship.
I’m here today to solicit and encourage public comments to the agencies and our elected leaders — particularly our Republican leaders — because it’s Good Politics.
We are a nation today very evenly split between opposing political views on many issues. But I’m convinced that there is a critical mass developing in American politics capable of establishing a broad consensus agenda (and I might add electoral success) based around policies which safeguard our national environmental treasures. Remember that when the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was first adopted in 2001, we were successful in large measure because of the strength of widespread, over-whelming public support.
Within that dynamic, the GOP can have no legitimate interest in being associated in the public mind with cronyism and the plunder of public lands. With respect to the Roadless Rule now, it is a fact that the huge majority of existing and proposed roads in our National Forests are built for the harvesting of timber. Only a mere 20 percent of these roads are even passable by passenger automobiles. This illustrates the truth that only a very narrow few will benefit from scrapping the Roadless Rule. Our country as a whole, Republicans as a whole, will not.
As a matter of politics then, we must help Republican policymakers realize that patriotism means more than just supporting our men and women in uniform. It also means looking objectively at the big picture and understanding what’s right for the country as a whole. Doing right by America.
Preservation of the Roadless Rule is also Good Economics. Part of conservation, and being conservative, means being prudent with our money. But a policy that moves away from the Roadless Rule is a policy that is the opposite of fiscally conservative. It’s a fact that American taxpayers subsidized more than 140 million dollars in logging roads between 1998 and 2002. And it’s also a fact, that even our existing road system on public lands has a current maintenance and capital investment backlog totaling nearly 10 Billion dollars. In short, we can’t afford the road’s we’ve got . . . let alone new ones. So in that sense, the American taxpayer simply cannot afford to loosen the Roadless Rule.
And finally, I’m here today as a Republican to encourage people to speak out in favor of retaining the Roadless Rule because it is simply good environmental stewardship.
As a nation we were given an amazing and abundant natural endowment. That endowment has helped sustain our country through many hardships and brought us great prosperity. And for that reason, it would be wrong for us, as a country, not to adequately protect our endowment for future generations. It would now be wrong to cannibalize our forests.
When Teddy Roosevelt launched the national park system, it was out of a visceral duty that we owe to ourselves to be good stewards of the environment. After all, Red America and Blue America drink the same water. And again, it’s a fact that preservation of roadless areas in our national forests means the preservation of more than 350 watersheds . . . in 39 states . . . generating potable water for more than 60 million Americans.
But putting health and safety aside, let me conclude by submitting to you that we have moral obligation to safeguard . . . to shepherd . . . and to preserve our forests and for a future that we can scarcely yet imagine. To that end, let’s start today by being citizens heard to say that the Roadless Rule must stay.