from the New Mexico News Connection - A statewide news service for New Mexico
Santa Fe - The White House is hosting a conference on conserving public lands, and the White House says President Obama's Conference for the Great Outdoors, in Washington, is all about protecting our treasured public lands, but many scientists and conservationists say recent actions run counter to that vision. Those actions have to do with the last third of undisturbed forests in the country, known as roadless areas. Dr. Dominick DellaSala, of the National Center for Conservation Science & Policy, says a roadless management plan submitted by Colorado and supported by the administration would weaken the national rule used in New Mexico and most other states through its numerous exemptions. He says leaving areas undeveloped has benefits beyond great views and hiking,"Roadless forests and watersheds purify the water we drink, cleanse the air we breathe, and can be considered a biological oasis for fish and wildlife populations."
A letter signed by over 500 scientists asks the White House to reject management plans submitted by Colorado, which are widely seen as less protective of remaining wilderness than the 2001 national Roadless Rule, which recently came back into force following a long court battle during the Bush Administration. Jim Furnish is a former deputy chief of the Forest Service and he says before the 2001 roadless rule, logging forests to meet the lumber needs of the housing boom was often the main management priority. But he says priorities have shifted in the 21st century, and so has the value of roadless forests, "In terms of their values for watershed health, biodiversity, their resiliency and sustainability."