Passage of roadless rule not expected

By Matthew Daly
The Associated Press, Seattle Times

WASHINGTON 7/23/02 Environmental advocates are looking to the Senate after failure of a House effort to ban road building in a third of the nation's federal forests.

But even as they tout a bill set to be introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., supporters concede prospects for the so-called roadless rule are fading for this year at least.

Many environmental activists said the limits of legislative timing and opposition from Republican leaders in the House made adoption of the roadless bill unlikely.

The pessimism was in sharp contrast to the mood last week, when environmental activists were boldly predicting House passage of the roadless rule.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, the measure's chief supporter, was set to introduce an amendment late Tuesday to make the roadless rule law but abruptly withdrew it at the last minute.

The amendment, slated to be attached to a spending bill for the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies, would have barred the Forest Service from ordering construction of new roads in the next fiscal year, with some exceptions.

President Clinton signed a similar order near the end of his term, banning new roads on 58.5 million acres of untouched national forest land, except in rare circumstances. Despite that order, the rule has never been implemented by the Bush administration and was set aside by a federal judge last year. A coalition of environmental groups has appealed the decision by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge.

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