Scientists ask governor to maintain roadless areas
March 9th, 2006

HELENA (AP) -- Dozens of scientists from around the state urged Gov. Brian Schweitzer Wednesday to recommend that Montana's roadless areas remain so to conserve the state's clean water and wildlife.

"Our collective experience and research shows that roadless areas are important buffers for water quality and wildlife, given the ever increasing cumulative pressures of human activities in Montana," said Jack Stanford, director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station.

The Bush administration is moving to allow logging or other commercial activities on millions of roadless acres in the nation's forests. The governors are being allowed to weigh in on the specifics in their states.

Schweitzer has asked county commissioners to detail plans for any new roads that are needed in roadless areas in their counties, including analysis of the roads' environmental impact, construction and maintenance costs and a summary of community support. Those plans were due March 1, and the governor's office is analyzing them, said Hal Harper, Schweitzer's chief policy adviser.

Several scientists met with Schweitzer Wednesday to discuss the roadless issue and deliver a letter signed by over 100 Montana scientists urging that the state's roadless areas remain that way.

"Maintaining a roadless status increases the value of hunting and other recreational activities in Montana," Stanford said. "A roadless policy should not hinder effective management of natural resources in any way."  Montana has 6.3 million acres of roadless lands.

The letter says the state's cleanest waters come from roadless areas, the most viable populations of bull and cutthroat trout use roadless tracts for spawning, and large animals are "diverse and abundant in the mountain areas because they have refuge for rest, feeding and reproduction in large, ecologically complex landscapes."
"Roads fragment these landscapes," the letter says.
Schweitzer has said the state's roadless areas don't need any more roads.

"With proper management, currently roaded forest lands can supply the logs necessary to keep Montana's mills running, and help sustain our rural communities across the state."