In response to Bush administration intentions to open up nearly 60 million acres of national forest land to extractive industries, a trade group representing 4,000 guiding and outdoor equipment companies has launched a campaign to educate consumers about the benefits of saving public land for recreational purposes.
As part of its “Protect Today, Play Tomorrow” campaign, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is coordinating ads in four national outdoor magazines as well as distribution of posters to specialty retail stores. The organization has also launched a web page where individuals can generate e-mails to President Bush and Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth asking to leave undeveloped public lands undeveloped.
Following a Clinton-era initiative, the Forest Service issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in January 2001, following the most extensive public involvement in the history of American lawmaking. This rule provided for protection from future road building and timber harvesting on 58.5 million acres of roadless Forest Service land.
Soon after taking office, the Bush administration announced its intention to review and update the provisions of the roadless rule. Since that time, the administration has excluded Alaskan forests from roadless rule protection and is currently investigating ways for state forest managers to apply for exemptions and other loophole opportunities.
Given outdoor enthusiasts’ abhorrence of clearcuts and other industrial scars on recreational lands, the OIA"s involvement in the issue is not a surprise. And with member businesses employing half a million people and generating $18 billion in revenue annually, the OIA may have some political muscle.