|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||February 5, 2003|
|Contact:||Craig Obey, NPCA, 202-454-3392
Courtney Cuff, NPCA, 510-839-9922, ext. 21
Rule Threatening National Parks Effective Today
The 130-year-old rule, designed to encourage road building in the Civil War era and repealed by Congress in 1976, has been resuscitated by the Department of the Interior - bad news for national parks, where mining companies and other developers will now be able to force new roads into our national treasures. Beginning today, local and state governments will be able to expedite filing claims for rights-of-way under this antiquated statute.
"The statute is like a fish out of water - it just doesn't belong in the modern world," said Courtney Cuff, director of the National Parks Conservation Association's Pacific Regional Office. "In California, local counties have alleged more than 2,500 miles of routes in the Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park. Counties in Montana, Idaho, and Oregon have asserted claims to roads on national forest lands. The new rule should be seen for what it is - a blatant land grab that defies public interest."
The rule allows roads and highways to be built along any route presently traced by a road or trail, even if the trail is 150 years old and has never been traveled by a motor vehicle. Essentially a giveaway of lands owned by the public, the rule will hit especially hard in Alaska and the West.
In Alaska, roads and trails that could be developed in national parks and preserves under the 1866 rule total more than 2,700 miles. More than half of those potential miles could be built in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the nation's largest national park and largest park wilderness area, potentially adding more than 1,600 miles of road in a park that scarcely has 100. Thirteen Alaska national parks and preserves could be affected, including Denali, Bering Land Bridge, and Yukon-Charley. The State of Alaska has identified 24 routes into Denali National Park and Preserve that may be claimed under the 130-year-old rule, covering about 350 miles, virtually all of it areas suitable for wilderness designation.
"February 5, 2003, marks a dark day in the history of public land protection in the United States," said Craig Obey, vice-president for Government Affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association. "This Bush administration action to allow a cynical few to turn footpaths in national parks into paved roadways flies in the face of the conservation legacy of great Republican leaders like Theodore Roosevelt. Unless the administration reverses course and refuses to give away any piece of America's natural heritage, its legacy will be national parks scarred by pavement and mountainsides gouged for unneeded roadways, not parks and other public lands protected for posterity."