The Bush administration should revise the roadless rule established by its predecessor. The rule severely harms Alaska's timber industry, which was nearly politicized out of existence in the Clinton era. It also creates a potentially devastating danger to the forests and impedes road construction for other purposes, such as recreation and tourism.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco lifted an injunction suspending the roadless rule earlier this month. That means logging and road construction is banned on a third of the nation's forested land, including a portion of the Tongass National Forest.
The timber industry, an Idaho state Indian tribe and the state of Idaho sought the injunction. They argued that the Clinton administration hadn't given enough opportunity for a public hearing of the rule. They were correct. It had nearly no public input. It was a Clinton edict.
The Bush administration wouldn't appeal the injunction so extreme environmental groups did. An appeals court ruled in their favor, lifting the injunction, a day after Bush proposed quickly proceeding with forest thinning to reduce the possibility of forest fires.
Thousands upon thousands of forested acres burned across the nation earlier this year -- many of which burned hotter and longer because of the density of the forests. The court made its ruling public the day after Bush's proposal.
If no other action is taken by parties supporting the injunction and opposing the roadless rule, then the appeals court's action will take effect in January.
President Bush not only should revise the roadless rule, but he also should use his power to change the 9th Circuit Court. It is the largest federal appeals court in the nation. Its jurisdiction stretches from the northernmost point in Alaska to the southern tip of California. Its caseload is too large, and as a result, it is the most overturned appeals court. It cannot possibly appropriately handle its caseload over such a diverse area. The California judges cannot allot the necessary time to thoroughly understand Alaska's issues. Alaskans would prefer a court likely to understand Alaska; Californians might better understand if they had to appeal an Alaska court when it came to issues regarding the industries that compose their economy.
Bush also should review laws and regulations affecting industry, communities and their economies. It is reasonable and responsible to have laws and regulations, but they should guide, not impede, progress and development.
President Bush is striving to improve the nation's economy. Alaska is rich in natural resources. If allowed to use and reuse those resources, it can do its part to provide jobs, which will enhance the economy.
Roadless rules and the like only impede his efforts. To achieve his goals, he needs to revise such rules, and he might as well start with one that affects the timber industry, recreation, tourism and Alaska.
-- Ketchikan Daily News - Dec. 15
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