Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gerry Connolly Sponsors Bill to Protect National Forests

Gerry Connolly has a history of fighting for our environment through projects like the cool counties program that he started when he was the Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. At Centreville Days, we also heard about his interest in historic preservation. It now appears as though he's combining the two as his office just released a statement saying that Gerry is joining with several of Virginia's other Members of Congress by supporting a bill "that would permanently protect 58.5 million acres of America’s most pristine public land in national forests in Virginia and across the nation."
In the Southeast, the legislation would protect approximately 723,000 acres of roadless areas in the Southern Appalachians, including more than 383,000 acres in Virginia’s George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. While protecting the last one-third of our threatened national forests from most logging and road-building, the bill allows new roads when needed to fight fires and ensure public health and safety.

Only 1 percent of Virginia’s timber yield comes from the national forests within the Commonwealth’s borders, Connolly said. “It is important that we protect the beauty and the natural resources in these public lands for future generations to behold and enjoy.” The national forests provide many recreational opportunities and provide clean water for many communities.

Passage of this legislation codifying the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule would ensure that roadless areas are permanently protected and policy would not change with successive Presidential administrations. In 2005, President Bush suspended the rule. A federal appeals court reinstated it in August, calling the Bush administration’s 2001 action illegal.

More than 150 members of Congress have cosponsored the legislation. Along with Connolly, Virginia Congressmen Rick Boucher, Jim Moran, Glenn Nye, Tom Perriello, and Bobby Scott sponsored the bill.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this legislation is that it moves to make the protection of the land permanent. This is noteworthy because it means protecting our environment won't be left up to politicians who might be willing to sell our national parks in exchange for campaign donations from the logging industry (and, yes, the logging industry does have lobbyists who are active up on the Hill). While this is just one piece of legislation, I am pleased to see that Virginia has Members of Congress from all across the Commonwealth who are making the right decision to support the environment and our national forests. Hopefully that will be the same case other important environmental bills that are currently being considered by Congress.

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