Washington, D.C. - Roadless areas and the "general assault" of the Clinton-Gore administration on the congressional process for managing public lands has been foremost on the minds of Wyomingites, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi who has visited five Wyoming cities in as many days.
Enzi said people are angry with the administration's proposal to restrict use of more than 60 million acres of National Forest land including more than 2 million in Wyoming, "and they should be."
"I've heard from veterans, local government officials along with hundreds of other Wyoming citizens this week asking what we can do to stop this misguided proposal," Enzi said. "The president has made an end run around Congress with this plan ignoring local input even from Forest Service personnel in local offices. He is attempting to force it through by rule and regulation. This puts increased pressure on the public to speak up if they want to be able to continue to use their land."
Enzi said the urgency increased today with the Department of Agriculture's refusal to extend the public comment period from the current Dec. 20 deadline. He encouraged anyone who cares about being able to enjoy the national forest to read the Forest Service's question and answer paper, which was released Nov. 12. It can be obtained by visiting the web site address roadless.fs.fed.us/faq.shtml. Comments can be faxed to 801-517-1021 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The first few pages are informative, but if you continue to read you will soon realize this proposal could drastically change the way most people in Wyoming have traditionally enjoyed the forest. I'm sure after reading the document people will have plenty of comments," said Enzi.
Enzi said most of the "roadless" areas in question are not roadless at all and he wants people, especially seniors and the disabled, to continue to have access to land they have enjoyed for generations.
"The administration has cleverly labeled this proposal as 'roadless', when in fact it is a proposal that would eliminate access to existing roads. The people I talk to are not asking for new roads or even upgrades of existing roads. They just want to be able to get into the forest as they always have," Enzi said. "Our national forests must be protected. I'm pleased we already have set aside millions of acres of pristine wilderness areas, but we also must keep land available for people who aren't fortunate enough to have the means to use horses or the physical stamina to backpack. The administration's proposal is a backdoor way to ban people from using any motorized vehicles or even bicycles in the forest. We can have both wilderness areas and areas of multiple use, but what the president wants to do is sacrifice one for the other."
Enzi has been holding open houses and constituent meetings in each of his state offices this week beginning with Cheyenne on Monday, then Jackson Tuesday, Cody Wednesday, Casper Thursday and ending the tour in Gillette Friday. The "roadless" topic has been the number one issue people have talked to him about.
Enzi said the "roadless" proposal is nothing new for this administration. Enzi named the Heritage Rivers initiative where the administration declared certain rivers endangered and the designation of the Escalante National Monument in Utah despite objections of state leaders, as examples of administrative actions that should have went through Congress.
On Monday Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Department of Interior, announced that he will ask president Clinton to create four new national monuments in Arizona and California that total over 1 million acres of land.
The decision comes on the heels of a recent announcement by Gov. Jim Geringer that Wyoming opposes Babbitt's "Rangeland Reform '94" grazing regulations. The proposal, rejected by Congress in 1993, sets more stringent "standards and guidelines" for healthy range conditions that grazing lessees will be expected to meet. The American Farm Bureau Federation originally sued Babbitt in 1995 over the regulations, which could dramatically change the grazing practices on Bureau of Land Management lands that ranchers have relied on for over 60 years.
Babbitt has similarly attempted to issue regulations allowing the federal government to bypass state government when approving gambling compacts on Indian reservations. An amendment authored by Enzi to an Interior appropriations bill has so far prevented the department from bypassing state governments.
The Department Health and Human Services is also attempting to bypass Congress through a new proposed ergonomic regulation requiring businesses to enact measures concerning repetitive motion injuries. Enzi has criticized the department for not waiting for the results of a National Academy of Sciences study on the subject. The ergonomics proposal would cost businesses billions of dollars to comply.