But Risch also said this to the Idaho Statesman: "I don't think people read the Clinton rule at the time," Risch said. "It permits road building for stewardship purposes in all roadless areas."
That isn't quite right. The rule fairly explicitly does not permit any road building in roadless areas, including temporary roads. (The text of the rule is available here. Scroll to the end for the actual regulations, at 36 CFR 294, which are short and sweet.)
But the rule manifestly does permit logging "to maintain or restore the characteristics of ecosystem composition and structure, such as to reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire effects." Anyone who has followed Forest Service logging plans for the last fifteen years knows that they all get justified as wildfire reduction projects.
And "roads" per se are not needed for such logging -- even "temporary ones." Only skid trails.
When the Supreme Court elected Bush as our president, Clinton's roadless rule became a kind of holy grail, and its return has been fought for ever since. People forgot that the rule was not necessarily all that protective. But now Risch is reminding us, and, in a sense, calling our bluff. It's ingenious, and I have to admire the man for it.
Of course, he also wants 500,000 acres of forested roadless landscape to turn over to industrial forestry. Again, those who are familiar with the lands in question are sweating bullets.
Before Idaho conservationists get so excited about Risch's apparent "compromise," they need to take a hard look at what they've been asking for, what the landscape deserves, what Risch is offering, and what is going to be given away. We have been asking for total protection of all roadless areas, not just the ones that don't have trees on them. Clinton's roadless rule was already a compromise that was hard enough to swallow after so much of our forested landscape got chopped down and sent to market. Risch's plan stinks and should be rejected at once.
Idaho Statesman story with Risch's language here.
Risch's plan, as it currently stands, here.
Original Idaho Conservation League statement here.
Clinton roadless rule here.