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Roadless plan needs more public process

MIKE GRIFFIN, Guest Column

President Bill Clinton has asked the Forest Service to inventory land that could possibly be designated “roadless” – part of a 50 million acre Wilderness proposal. There’s one problem …

Much of the sought-after acreage does not fit current Wilderness criteria set forth by Congress in 1964, because of the existing roads, trails, multiple-use recreation and private property in these areas. This is also in violation of the 1984 California Wilderness Act, which specifically forbade the Forest Service from initiating any further “roadless area reviews,” as the 1984 bill has already designated appropriate lands suitable for Wilderness and released forever all other lands for multiple use.

Will this fact slow down the Clinton/Gore plan? Not at all. Bill and Al will now redefine the word “road” to mean only those roads accessible by low clearance passenger cars. Anything less would become an “unclassified road” and therefore, would not exist in the road inventory. Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary defines the word road as “an open way for vehicles, persons or animals.” Bicycle trails, horse trails, double and single track Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) routes, and many other roads and trails, viable under Webster’s definition, would be eliminated under the new definition coming from the White House.

Many of the old roads and trails we use that are adjacent to our rural communities become non-roads and become eligible for closure. These new “unroaded” areas then become eligible for “Wilderness” status, which Bill Clinton has indicated he will sign into law by Executive Order, bypassing Congress, the law, and the will of the American people. This is absolutely dishonest and illegal and dishonors the legislative system and the law in the eyes of the American people.

If you are a mountain biker, a snowmobiler, a horseback rider, a fisherman, a hunter, a nature photographer, a back-country snowboarder, a rock hound, a rock climber, or anyone else who uses a sport utility vehicle or off-highway vehicle to access our world class local back country recreation areas via primitive roads and trails, your access and your sport are about to be kicked in the head. If Bill Clinton gets away with this, you will be closed out of most of these areas forever. Thousands of private property owners, millions of recreational users will be severely impacted, and economic and social stability of thousands of small communities across the western United States will be sacrificed on the altar of the anti-human agenda of the leadership of the major “environmental” organizations.

This rule-making process is portrayed as a public process that will protect “pristine” National Forests which remain undisturbed by logging or other roads. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allegedly will use public comments to help determine how to best protect these lands from further development. Given the scope and magnitude of this issue, a 60-day comment period is not nearly enough time to hear from the American people. In fact, I believe this process has been politically manipulated by the leadership of the major environmental organizations. This new “public” rule-making process violates current law and the Constitution, which gives only Congress the authority to determine the overall direction for public land management. The role of the Executive Branch, which includes the president as well as the Department of Agriculture, is to implement that Congressional direction. Executive orders bypass the Congress and the checks and balances that our Constitution provides. Webster’s dictionary defines “legislate” as “to make or enact laws created by the legislature as distinguished from an executive or judicial body” or “an organized body having the authority to make laws for a political unit.”

The Clinton/Gore political unit apparently no longer needs Congress, and in fact, will govern in defiance of the laws made by Congress.

Despotism means “a system where the ruler has unlimited power”.

I would, therefore, describe this process as an act of a “despotic state”. The elimination of congressional procedures for a criminal process. Selective public comments and a closed door process that flaunts historic time-proven legislative procedures have no place in public land management.


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