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  Sierra Magazine
  March/April 2004
Table of Contents
  FEATURES: Wild America
Our Great Estate
Land Lingo
The Assault on Wild America
Beneath Wyoming Stars
Stuck on the Desert
Deep in the Georgia Woods
In the Rockies' Wild Heart
Experts Agree!
Interview: Yvon Chouinard
Ways & Means
Let's Talk
One Small Step
Lay of the Land
Good Going
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Grassroots Update
Mixed Media
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Our Great Estate | Land Lingo | The Assault on Wild America | Red Desert: BLM Public Land | Cabeza Prieta | Chattahoochee National Forest | Cabinet Mountains Wilderness

The Assault on Wild America

Our great national wildlands are in danger, along with other lands needed for wildlife and water. Already, the Bush administration has removed protections from 234 million acres—a third of our public lands, or one-tenth of the landmass of the United States. (Note that figures in bold add up to this total; others were omitted because of overlap.)

Fire Sale
The Bush administration is using fire as an excuse for logging, both before and after the fact. Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest, scene of the 2002 Biscuit fire, is now offering the largest timber sale in U.S. history as a so-called salvage cut. The proposed volume is 20 times as much as the normal annual output of the Siskiyou and the nearby Rogue River National Forest combined.

The Chainsaw Solution
In the name of fire prevention and forest-community protection nationwide, Bush opened 131.4 million acres to cutting without environmental review. Creating a safe half-mile buffer around forest communities would require thinning on only 10 million acres.

Yellow-air National Park
In the 1990s, snowmobiles gave Yellowstone’s West Entrance the worst air quality in the country. A ban on snowmobiles was to have taken effect in 2003, but Bush tried to open 184 miles of road to increased numbers of the whining, exhaust-belching vehicles. A federal judge reinstated the old ban for next winter; Bush is expected to appeal the ruling.

Road Rage
Bush opened the door to logging roads in 60 million acres of currently roadless wild forest—counter to the wishes of more than 2 million Americans who sent comments or participated directly in the planning process. Alaska’s huge Chugach and Tongass National Forests were entirely removed from protection. Tongass roadless areas alone count for 9 million acres.

Highway Spaghetti
Wilderness-quality lands are also at risk because the Bush administration is allowing states and counties to claim old cow paths and off-road-vehicle trails as "highways." More than 10,000 claims have been catalogued in Utah alone. Claims shown here in red are in Canyonlands National Park, adjacent potential wilderness, and other public lands.

Gas on the Range
The Bush administration has approved 82,000 new oil and gas wells in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, roughly doubling the current number. The map below shows the wells already in Wyoming. Altogether, 4 million acres have been opened to oil and gas drilling in the Lower 48, and an additional 9 million onshore acres in Alaska’s western Arctic.

Mountaintop Removal
The Bush administration has made it easier for coal companies to cut the tops off mountains and dump the waste in adjoining valleys, where more than 700 miles of streams have been buried. So far 300,000 acres of forest in central Appalachia have been obliterated, with 1 million more acres at risk.

Enough Wilderness?
Bush’s Interior Department has declared that the United States has all the wilderness it needs. That means that the BLM’s unprotected wilderness-quality lands will no longer be given special status, and could be opened to mining, drilling, or logging. Among the areas at risk: 600,000 acres in Colorado; 7 million acres in Utah; 61 million acres in Alaska.

No Species Great or Small
Endangered species need places to live. But the Bush administration has removed 16.4 million acres from "critical habitat" status, and has also refused to offer protection to struggling species.

The Bush administration is trying to strip endangered-species status from the grizzly bear, manatee, and other threatened animals.

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