USDA directive gives Vilsack authority over roadless forests

USDA directive could put roadless forests off limits from logging.
USDA directive could put roadless forests off limits from logging.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced an interim directive that grants secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack decision-making authority over roadless forests.

"This interim directive will provide consistency and clarity that will help protect our national forests until a long-term roadless policy reflecting President Obama's commitment is developed," Vilsack said.
USDA said contradicting court rulings have created confusion over the 2001 roadless rule issued by President Clinton, which was overturned by President Bush.

Contrary to press reports of a moratorium on projects, the directive will ensure that USDA can carefully consider activities in these inventoried roadless areas while long term roadless policy is developed and relevant court cases move forward, USDA said.

Vilsack said the directive does not prohibit him from allowing projects to go forward that he "believes are in the interest of forest stewardship."

However, the directive is likely to reignite a debate between conservation groups and logging and mining interests.

The interim directive will last for one year and can be renewed for an additional year.