GRANTS PASS, Oregon Arguing that protecting forests is good forbusiness, major manufacturers of outdoor gear, including footwear giant Nike,are urging the Bush administration not to open roadless areas of nationalforests to logging.
Organized by environmental groups, Oregon-based Nike, Adidas, ColumbiaSportswear, and others sent a letter this week to Agriculture UndersecretaryMark Rey urging him to retain the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The rule, putin place by the Clinton administration, bars logging on 60 million acres ofundeveloped national forest.
The Bush administration has exempted the Tongass National Forest in Alaska fromthe rule to settle a lawsuit brought by the state and has proposed givinggovernors power to exempt their states.
“The modifications to the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule have thepotential to negatively impact our nation’s natural resources, our citizens’outdoor experience and ultimately, our industry’s financial health,” theMay 7 letter said.
The letter came on the heels of a similar campaign by the Outdoor IndustryAssociation of Boulder, Colorado.
“We are an $18 billion industry,” said Menno van Wyk, CEO of Montrail,a hiking shoe company based in Seattle. “The reason we are a big andgrowing industry is a reflection of the fact that people are choosing to spend asignificant amount of their free time enjoying these wild places.”
The campaign represents a broadening of the environmental lobby, said Jay Ward,conservation director of the Oregon Natural Resources Association, which helpedorganize the letter.
“The Bush administration at its base is interested in listening tocorporate America,” Ward said from Portland. “It is interested indoing things it views as reinvigorating the economy. Heretofore, that has beenmostly viewed as a way to produce more two-by-fours and plywood.”
The administration wants to protect roadless areas, Rey said, but is left withlegal uncertainty since the roadless rule has been challenged by nine separatelawsuits, including one in Wyoming that resulted in a federal court injunctionsetting it aside nationwide.
Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resources Council, said thetimber industry no longer viewed the issue of logging in national forests as oneof jobs versus the environment.
“We are talking about the future of forests, wildlife, and watersheds,”West said. “As we saw in the Biscuit fire (which burned 500,000 acres insouthwestern Oregon in 2002), whether it’s roaded, unroaded, or wilderness,catastrophic fire sees no boundary and destroys millions of acres of criticalwildlife habitat and key watersheds.”