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The Planet
Chief Resigns, Urges Support for Roadless Plan

by Jenny Coyle

"You cannot fail if you allow your loyalty to the land and to those yet to be born to take precedence over all other organizational and political fealties."

U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck offered that piece of advice in his March 27 letter of resignation to Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

Because he was not a cabinet member, Dombeck did not automatically lose his job when President Bush took over. The administration could have forced him to leave in May, but he stepped down early because of differences with the administration about the agency's future.

"We respected Mike Dombeck's attempts to change the Forest Service," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "He actively sought public input. We wish him well in his next steps."

Dombeck, chief since January 1997, and the Sierra Club did not always see eye to eye. One of the Club's top four priorities is to end commercial logging on public lands. In a June 1999 interview with The Planet, Dombeck disagreed with that position, saying the agency's goal is to provide a healthy, functioning watershed that maintains water quality, and that doesn't necessarily exclude cutting trees.

But the Club praised Dombeck's leadership in the fight to ban logging and road building on 58 million acres of the last remaining roadless areas on national forests.

In his letter of resignation to Veneman, the former chief urged the administration to support the plan.

"I hope the administration's intent is not to negotiate a settlement with those opposed to roadless area protection," Dombeck wrote, referring to a court challenge of the plan filed by the State of Idaho and the Boise Cascade timber company. "Doing so would undermine the most extensive multi-year environmental analysis in history, a process that included over 600 public meetings and generated 1.6 million comments - the overwhelming majority of which supported protecting roadless areas."

While the administration has not yet actively opposed the roadless plan, it passed by the opportunity to defend it when given the chance to do so by the judge hearing the Idaho case, and instead delayed its effective date by 60 days, until May 12, in order to review it.

Take Action:

Remind your representative that after years of study and unprecedented public involvement, the Forest Service completed a policy to protect the last wild places on national forests. Urge your representative to support the plan and oppose all legislative efforts to weaken or overturn the roadless policy.

(See "To Take Action" box on Page 6 for addresses.)
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