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Road Ban a Slap at Loggers, Disabled, Seniors

In the Arena, by Rich Jefferson-Road Ban a Shop at Loggers, Disabled, Seniors

By Staff Writer
Date Posted: 4/1/2000


Bill Clinton’s roadless initiative fornational forests is part of the Heritage Forests Campaign financed by the deep,green pockets of the Pew Charitable Trust, the W. Alton Jones Foundation and theTurner Foundation.

The name "Heritage Forests Campaign"is really a euphemism for the "Stop the Logging on Public Lands (We’llstop the logging on private lands later) Campaign." It’s interesting, isn’tit, that a major policy push by the president of the United States couldactually be part of a policy and public relations campaign conducted by acoalition of non-profit groups? The names of coalition members can be found atwww.ourforests.org. Remember that name, "ourforests.org."

It’s funny how such bright people canabsolutely ignore simple economics. The average person in North America eachyear uses the equivalent of a tree 100 feet tall and 18 inches in diameter tosupply all their paper and wood products needs. That is not going to changebecause of the "Stop the Logging on Public Lands Campaign."

When coalitions like the foundation-financedHeritage Forest Campaign do their mischief, they harm far more people than eventhey intend. Take Jeff Lyall. He suffered a serious spinal injury nine years agothat put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. But Jeff, a man with apassion for the outdoors, found a way to continue spending time in the woods.That is, until Clinton-Gore gave us their roadless initiative. As Jeff testifiedrecently in Washington, D.C., before the forest and forest health subcommitteeof the House Resources Committee, the roadless initiative has virtuallyterminated his outdoor recreation.

If you can hike or ride a mountain bike, youcan get in the woods, but those methods don’t work for a disabled person likeJeff, who is only 32. Once upon a time, Jeff could use his modified Jeep CJ tomotor on the few roads available in the national forests to off-highway vehicles(OHV). The Jeep CJ became his "new hands and feet," he testified.

Jeff relishes the outdoors, but now his accessto public national forests has been eliminated. I do not think Clinton feels hispain.

Jeff testified that "there are some 66National Forest OHV roads with 110 miles of potential forest access. But there’sa problem. Of these 110 miles, only 9 miles are open during certain times andzero are open year-round."

The U.S. Forest Service has closed almost allthe national forest roads in the Blacksburg and New Castle districts inVirginia, a huge area north and northwest of the fair city of Roanoke. Thoseroads had been accessible to OHVs. They were the ones Jeff could use in hismodified Jeep CJ.

Knowing that another human being like Jeffenjoys the forest as much as I do, but can’t get to it without a motorizedcontraption, makes me long to hear his engine on national forest lands. But thatwould be too much like consideration for the poor, rural, American fromAppalachia.

According to Jeff’s research, wildernesscomprises 18% of all national forest lands although less than 2% of all visitorsuse wilderness areas. OHV users are 35% of all forest visitors, but theytraditionally have used less than 2% of national forest lands. Yet the 35% arethe people hit with the road closures.

Jeff began talking with local Forest Servicecontacts a few years ago. The policy, he learned, was to "obliterateroads" (Jeff’s emphasis). The Forest Service "intended to gateand destroy as many OHV roads as possible."

The roads are the only access to these publiclands by someone in Jeff’s condition. As he said, "This is, in effect, afederal policy of discrimination against the estimated 54 million disabledpeople in the United States — not to mention the millions in the seniorcommunity who enjoy the outdoors but are not able to travel as they oncedid."

One out of every five Forest Service roads, ormore than 76,000 miles, has been closed. "Within the past year," Jefftestified, "three OHV roads in my own backyard, which have been open sincethe 1950s and 1960s, were bulldozed and gated, cutting off my access to thesenational forest lands. In essence the Forest Service is saying, ‘if you can’twalk, we don’t want you in our forests!’ This has got to stop. And thepeople behind it have to be stopped."

According to Jeff and others testifying at thehearing, the road closings have been "pushed by environmental groups fundedby large foundations and working with Clinton administration insiders. TheNational Audubon Society pushed the President to permanently preserve 40 millionacres of roadless areas. The Pew Trusts funded the Audubon Society, which willfunnel more than $3 million to 12 environmental organizations to pressure theForest Service to shut down more roads.

"So, I now understand that it isn’tsimply a line officer with the Forest Service who is shutting me out of ourNational Forests," said Jeff. "It isn’t even simply a matter of somelocal or national environmental organization trying to shut down the forests. Itis large, rich, foundations such as the Pew Charitable Trusts that arediscriminating against me and the entire disabled community by fundingenvironmental groups to push policies such as ‘Gate and Obliterate.’ Icannot fight them alone."

When the "Stop the Logging on PublicLands Campaign" calls its Web site "ourforests.org," they meanthat the forests are theirs, not yours and mine. Think about that, privateproperty owners.

As the Clinton administration subverts the purpose of nationalforests, which were intended to be a source of wood, they trample on the rightsof Jeff Lyall and others. 




 






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