Center for Biological Diversity

Clearcutting a Roadless Area Is Not Protecting It

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Table Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area is a 16,000-acre tract of tightly packed summits, modest in height but marked by rocky outcrops and stunning cliff faces. It lies above one of the most spectacular and undeveloped valleys in the East. The 100-year-old forests within the roadless area, like other portions of the Swift River valley, have begun to recover some of the old-growth majesty that was lost when the entire White Mountain region of New Hampshire was ravaged by timber barons in the late 1800s.

Each year, millions of people flock to this national forest -- and in particular, this valley -- to take in its broad vistas, soak up its sylvan stillness, and catch a glimpse of wild nature that’s increasingly rare on the densely populated East Coast. But the Forest Service wants to clearcut the Table Mountain Roadless Area.
Last year, the Obama administration pledged to put a moratorium on logging and other development in roadless areas as a first step toward fulfilling its promise of enacting permanent, nationwide roadless-area protection. Clearcutting in a roadless area is not protecting it. Local Forest Service officials, and more importantly, agency leaders and the Obama administration, need to hear that Americans want real protection for national forest roadless areas. Logging plans for Table Mountain and other roadless areas across the country need to be scrapped.

Please take action now and send a letter calling for an end to the logging of our precious roadless lands, as well as the implementation of a permanent, consistent, nationwide roadless-area protection policy.

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Please submit comments by April 22, 2010.

White Mountain National Forest photo (c) Mollie Matteson.

The Forest Service is in an early phase of planning the timber sale it calls “Northeast Swift,” which is meant to take place in parts of the Table Mountain Roadless Area. With enough citizen opposition, officials at the White Mountain National Forest may come to their senses and modify the proposal.

But this national forest has a very poor track record of heeding public opinion. All five of the most recent roadless-area timber sales on the national forest were vigorously opposed by the Center, thousands of our members, and other conservation groups. Regionally and nationally, support for protection of national forest roadless areas, including on the White Mountain, is immense.

Therefore, it’s important that comments go not only to the White Mountain National Forest, but also to agency leaders Tom Tidwell, chief of the Forest Service, and Thomas Vilsack, secretary of agriculture, who placed a moratorium on logging in national-forest roadless areas last year and pledged to safeguard these areas over the long term through a policy of permanent national roadless-area protection. These top officials need to know that concerned citizens expect the Obama administration to actually demonstrate its commitment to protecting roadless areas by not logging them.

Here’s some other information about the Table Mountain Roadless Area and the Forest Service’s Northeast Swift logging plan:

•    The numerous clearcuts proposed for the Table Mountain Roadless Area will likely be visible from hiking trails throughout the Swift River valley, as well as from the Kancamagus Highway.

•    The timber sale plan includes logging of an eight-mile stretch just outside the roadless-area boundary and along the Swift River, which is eligible for “wild and scenic river” designation.

•    The Northeast Swift project is just a few miles from the “Kanc 7” timber sale, which intrudes upon the Sandwich Roadless Area. This will be the second major timber sale along the Kancamagus National Scenic Byway in the last two years.

•    Public lands in general, and roadless forests in particular, are especially scarce in the densely populated eastern United States. The White Mountains lie within a day’s drive of more than 70 million people.

•    Roadless lands are even more essential to preserve for wildlife than for people. They provide habitat sanctuaries for wildlife sensitive to human disturbance, as well as migration corridors for plants and animals adjusting to shifting climatic regimes.

•    According to a recent study of northeastern forests, unlogged forests like those found in protected national-forest roadless areas provide the highest capacity for carbon storage of any type of management. Even lightly and infrequently logged forests don’t store and absorb as much carbon from the atmosphere as do unlogged forests. Protecting roadless areas, therefore, helps mitigate the impacts of global climate change while providing numerous other benefits at the local and regional level.

A description of the Northeast Swift proposal can be found online at