Sierra Club Press Release

For Immediate Release
Contact: Tom Boutureira
April 4, 2001
(207) 791-2821

New Forest Service Data Shows Overwhelming Support in Maine for Protecting Our Last Wild Forests

The Sierra Club Calls on Bush to Respond to the Public, Not Campaign Contributors

Portland, Maine: Forest Service documents disclosed today show that supporters of protecting the last wild areas of our National Forests outnumber opponents by a margin of 4889 to 50 in Maine. This is similar to national numbers that show supporters outnumbering opponents nationwide by more than 28 to 1. The Sierra Club and other conservation groups released the statistics, which for the first time demonstrate the level of public support for protecting the last fragments of unspoiled National Forest land. Controversy has grown in recent weeks as courts consider a timber industry challenge and conservationists accuse John Ashcroft of backing away from his commitment to protect the plan. The new numbers chronicle the responses that the Forest Service received on their draft roadless area protection plan.

While drafting the roadless protection policy, the Forest Service created the largest public involvement process in history. The Forest Service held more than 600 public hearings around the nation and received more than one and a half million comments over two public comment periods. In Maine residents sent comments supporting greater protection for wild forests, while only 50 residents opposed protecting wild roadless areas. In other states, support for protecting wild forests was as high as 43,517 to 183 in Pennsylvania and 85,565 to 681 in Florida. Even in states like Alaska, where the timber industry is politically powerful, support for protection ran 6235 to 1096.

"These numbers confirm that Maine’s residents want the last wild areas in our National Forests and in Maine’s North Woods protected for future generations," said Carole Haas, volunteer chair for the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club. "From coast to coast, citizens calling for wild forest protection vastly outnumbered those opposed. People want areas like Maine’s North Woods saved for hunting, fishing, camping, and providing clean water and air forever--not for the private profit of a few timber companies. We still have a huge challenge in Maine because less than six percent of the state is protected in public ownership. Now is the time to consider all the options for protecting Maine’s North Woods for future generations to enjoy."

Despite the overwhelming public support for protecting our last wild forests, President Bush and some members of Congress may attack protections for our last pristine forests. President Bush took immediate action on Inauguration Day to delay the date that the new plan was to take effect from March 13 to May 12. Now, the administration is reviewing the policy.

"We encourage President Bush and Maine’s Congressional delegation to respond to the families who hunt, fish, hike, and camp in our National Forests not to campaign contributors from the timber and mining industry intent on destroying public forests for private profit," said Carole Haas.

The roadless area conservation rule protects nearly 60 million acres of the most pristine areas in our National Forests. These increasingly scarce unspoiled places are crucial for providing quality hunting and fishing, for protecting watersheds that supply drinking water, for offering magnificent scenery and providing backcountry recreation.


Tom Boutureira
Conservation Organizer
Sierra Club - Maine Woods Campaign
1 Pleasant Street
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 791-2821
(207) 773-6690 (FAX)