National energy and mineral associations have warned US President Bill Clinton that the US Forest Service's preferred alternative for managing roadless areas is contrary to national interests.
They said the agency is proposing to prohibit most road building or reconstruction on 49 million acres of inventoried roadless areas initially, rising to 58.5 million acres in 2004.
"Further, revisions to associated forest management plans undoubtedly would result in the inclusion of many additional, smaller 'unroaded' areas in the ban. Bans on road building mean bans on access; bans on access translate into prohibitions on exploration and development of significant energy and mineral resources," the associations said.
The groups said the US needs more domestic energy resources, and industry has demonstrated it can develop and use energy and mineral resources in a manner compliant with national environmental policies.
"We are concerned that energy and mineral policy needs have not been considered adequately in the roadless area conservation rulemaking.
"We are disturbed that the Forest Service has virtually ignored the public benefit of resource development from these multiple use lands. Moreover, the service has failed entirely to acknowledge the importance of oil, natural gas, and other resources on these lands and the negative impact such massive withdrawals will have on the nation's energy supply.
"Additionally, the service has failed to recognize that energy producers are required to construct, maintain, and reclaim all roads associated with exploration, development, and transmission once they are no longer needed. Hence, impacts associated with energy development are temporary in nature."
The groups noted that the administration's energy policy stresses the importance of developing natural gas resources. It said that the National Petroleum Council has estimated that Forest Service lands in areas currently available for multiple use contain an estimated 21 tcf of gas (including 10 tcf in inventoried roadless areas) and 500 to 1.2 billion bbl of oil.
They said the agency's proposal also would hamper the construction, operation, and maintenance of necessary transportation infrastructure for these raw materials and electric power.
Signing the letter were the heads of the American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Domestic Petroleum Council, American Gas Association, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, Association of Oil Pipelines, Natural Gas Supply Association, Edison Electric Institute, Nuclear Energy Institute, and National Mining Association.