Statement on President Clinton's Roadless Areas/ Land Legacy Announcement Today

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(10/13/1999) - "Politicians often use the word 'historic' but today's announcement by President Clinton truly could become historic. If the Administration’s roadless areas policy is implemented and Congress approves permanent funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), as proposed by the President, it will mean that we as a nation have finally decided that the conservation ethic should be a permanent guiding principle -- and have finally put our money where our mouths are to make it real.

"It has been three decades, for example, since Congress set up the LWCF and promised to create parks and protect wildlife habitat using offshore oil royalties. But the promise has been broken. Congress repeatedly has failed to provide the necessary appropriations in spite of the fact that the royalties have been specifically earmarked for conservation. More than $12 billion legally dedicated to LWCF projects at the federal and state levels have been diverted into other activities over the years. But right now, today, there is bipartisan support for the LWCF in both houses of Congress and in the White House. So we could at last be at a turning point. Certainly the opportunity is there to protect our most valuable unprotected parks, wildlife refuges, forests, coastal areas, and wildlife habitat. Will Congress seize this historic opportunity?

"In his roadless areas announcement, the President has taken the first step towards permanent protection of a significant portion of the last remaining acres of natural, unspoiled forest habitats in the country. With rampant development and resource extraction taking place on private lands, our national forests provide some of the few places where species that need large areas to roam - such as bears, wolves, and lynx -- can thrive. As the necessary review process takes place, our greatest concern is that this policy protect ALL our national forests. One of the largest forests, and most important for many old-growth-dependent species such as goshawk, is the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. This forest, as well as all others, must be included.

"The President astutely points out that conservation has historically been a bipartisan endeavor. Hopefully Democrats and Republicans in Congress will both rise to the occasion and join the President in enacting truly historic conservation legislation."

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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