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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Reinforce roadless rule

Paul Fish Special to The Spokesman-Review

Near Nature, Near Perfect.

This is our slogan for the Spokane region. It nicely sums up why many of us live here – a city with a great river running through it, beautiful forests and mountains, and not far away a quarter-million acres of national forest roadless areas in northeast Washington and over twice that in North Idaho. These roadless areas are the source of drinking water for Spokane and other communities, and they provide critical wildlife habitat and outstanding recreational opportunities. Roadless areas like those in the Kettle Range on the Colville National Forest provide a place for humans and wildlife to enjoy the quiet of this beautiful area.

The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule provides protection for 58.5 million acres of roadless national forest lands around the country from development. The roadless rule was intended to preserve the last third of our nation’s national forests that have not been opened to extractive uses, to ensure protection for sources of clean water, protection for hundreds of threatened, endangered and declining species, and heritage for future generations.

Despite unprecedented support for the roadless rule, as demonstrated by over 2 million individual comments nationally with 80,000 coming from Washington state, the Bush administration spent its tenure attempting to undermine the protections of the rule, placing our national forest roadless areas at risk from logging, road building and other development. Last year the Bush administration removed protections for many roadless areas in Idaho.

I started my Spokane business, Mountain Gear Inc., in 1983 as a way to get more people out to enjoy the many close-to-home recreation opportunities in our region. I have a passion for adventure, and selling outdoor gear seemed like a great way to make a living. Mountain Gear is a growing company, employing nearly 100 people, and it is part of the multibillion-dollars-per-year recreation industry that relies on our nation’s public lands and waters.

The lakes, rivers, mountains and forests of the Inland Northwest serve as important habitat for fish and wildlife, and provide recreational opportunities and jobs for citizens. While I make my living helping people play on our public lands, I believe our roadless wild forests should be protected for our children and future generations to enjoy.

President Obama must act quickly to restore protections for our last undeveloped national forests by upholding the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. It is also critical that the administration implement an immediate “timeout” on road building and other activities in roadless areas around the country until the roadless rule can be reinstated.

Paul Fish is founder and president of Mountain Gear Inc.
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