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The Great Stillborn Eco-Victory

“Roadless, roadless…moonlight dancing on a fresh clearcut”

– Apology to Paul Simon

The e-mails lists were abuzz V-E Day with articles and post-mortems on the Bush Administration’s new offensive in their War on the Earth. The dumping of the toothless Clinton “Roadless Area Conservation Rule” and installing of a “New” Roadless Rule barely went noticed by the general populace. Far more newspapers editorials appeared (most against the BushCo move) than news stories about it and virtually no real analysis as it’s pretty hard to explain how one “rule” that didn’t protect anything is now replaced with another that will also do nothing to stop industry’s rapacious raids on our last public-owned wildlands. (I’ll give it a try.)

Big Labor quickly weighed in quickly of course; in support of Bush. And, the Big Greens? Already the “send us your money to defend the Clinton Roadless Rule” campaign is in full swing. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the League of Conservation Voters, the Heritage Forests Campaign, Trout Unlimited and the rest of the Democrat Greenwash cabal now call the new measure “The Treeless Rule” in their pleas. (Poll-tested labeling, for sure.)



Back in 2000, the Big Greens unveiled their Pew Charitable Trusts-funded Heritage Forests Campaign (HFC). In a New York Times piece that year, professional enviro, HFC Director Ken Rait announced that Pew funding “will ultimately include more than $4 million in spending.”

In a telling portent, Rait gloated about the “proud moment” a few months later when the out-going Clinton finally put his Roadless Rule in place. In a piece he wrote at the time, Rait crows “The scope and scale of what we have done is truly historic.” Yet, in the very first ten words he brings up the fact that “it (the roadless policy) is threatened;” the most honest words he musters.

Gee. Ya think? Clinton unveils the plan literally at the last moment (safely after even it’s weak provisions would have applied to his administration – the one that gave us the “Salvage Rider”) on January 12, 2001; just eight days before Bush was inaugurated!

And, yes, that “threat” has subsequently worked quite well as fund-raiser; as Rait et al. are still on the foundation dole, keeping their jobs longer than the stated reason for the jobs itself lasted. (Does this losing team ever change the line-up?) The slick HFC web-site still claims; “This reasonable and well-balanced rule protects the last remaining wild and intact 58.5 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands from road construction and most logging, drilling, and mining.”


The Seven-Year Ditch

And, just what was the scope and scale of this great victory? The falsely-titled piece “Clinton Preserves Pristine Roadless National Forests” from 2001 had this revealing series of observations:

“(George) Frampton, (Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks and former president of the Wilderness Society (1986-1993), dismissed charges that the roadless policy is too extreme, noting that it does contain provisions for thinning trees to reduce wildfire risks, and for restoring forest health.

Frampton downplayed the rule’s effects on timber harvesting activities in the Tongass National Forest, noting that certain timber sales already in the “pipeline” in that forest will be “grandfathered in” under the new roadless policy. The grandfathering clause, Frampton said, will ensure that there will be a steady supply of timber from roadless areas in that forest for the next seven years.

Timber sales slated for roadless areas in other national forests will also be grandfathered in under the new policy, but only if they have been finalized with a record of decision, Frampton said.”

Well, they didn’t even have to reach the end of the seven-year “pipeline” before the paper tiger was jettisoned. In the end, it ‘preserved’ nothing but Al Gore and his successors’ pale-green eco-credentials and the jobs of a gaggle of Democrat Greenwashers — as intended.


Where the Trees Are

Notably, the Roadless Rule never DID take into account millions of acres of what are known as “uninventoried roadless areas,” generally lower elevation with bigger trees and greater biodiversity; and closer to existing road networks they can be easily linked with. The vast majority of the 58.5 million acres Rait claimed he historically protected are higher elevation, with less commercial timber (by a 1 – 10 ratio by some estimates) than the univentoried lands.

Outside of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest (gee, why was it “grandfathered?”), most logging of pristine forests has occurred in these threatened areas during the short lifetime of the Roadless Rule, as could be expected. As Willie Sutton would note, “That’s where they keep the big trees.”

Most other recent public lands logging has been in those other areas the Big Greens loudly claimed Clinton protected (the so-called Late Successional Reserves of the Northwest Forest Plan) which were to be set aside for spotted owls and other dependent species; but quickly become a Big Timber free-fire zone once burned by Nature or, more likely of late, the usual “Light it; Fight It and Log It” arsonist.


The 40 Pieces of Silver Lining

While the self-serving authors of the “Environmentalism is Dead” fund-us-instead grant proposal are dead wrong when it comes to actual citizen activism, they are certainly on to something when it comes to what passes for an “Environmental” lobby as represented by the Big Greens and their Big Oil foundation funders (any wonder why the Big Greens don’t seriously take on Peak Oil?). For them, it’s all about funding and not causing pain/providing cover to the Democrats. The actual living Environment has become, like news content in your local paper, just the filler for advertisements.

In a “movement” that consistently rewards mediocrity and punishes competence (when was the last time any of Opal Creek’s successful grassroots defenders was asked to be a decision-making part of any of these grand, foundation-dictated schemes?) this is no rout, as it brings with it a fund-raising god-send on the “scale and scope” of James Watt. (Why change the losing line-up if the dough continues to rise?)

Joined with the recent rout on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) — the number one fund-raiser and “top issue” for the Big Greens for over a decade now — and the surrender on Post-fire “Salvage” Logging; the thrashing on the impotent Roadless Rule will bring on a one-two-three punch of on-line pleas and glossy mailers. A veritable fund-raising Klondike — to be strip-mined at least through the defeat of Hillary “Finishing the Job on the Roadless Rule” Clinton’s 2008 presidential run.

MICHAEL DONNELLY of Salem, Oregon is a long-time grassroots forest activist. He and friends were able to gain Wilderness designation for Opal Creek’s 35,000 acres of Ancient Forest, the sole Ancient Forest to gain such inviolate protection during Clintontime or since. He can be reached at:















More articles by:

MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at

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