There was a good story on NPR's Morning Edition today about new rules being proposed by the Bush administration:
BOB EDWARDS: The Bush administration will allow states to seek exemptions from a policy that blocks road building in a national forest. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Ray says the so-called roadless rule will be amended, and the nation's two largest national forests will be exempted altogether. NPR's Elizabeth Arnold has been following the story. Good morning.
ELIZABETH ARNOLD: Good morning, Bob.
EDWARDS: This roadless rule protects nearly 60 million acres of forest. What will this policy change mean?
ARNOLD: Well, Bob, the Bush administration inherited this rule. They never really liked it, they never defended it in court, and they wanted to get rid of it, but the Clinton administration really bulletproofed it, with unprecedented public comment, they simply made it hard to get around, and this last December the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it, so now the Bush administration is sayong, "OK, fine, we'll live with it, but in some amendments this fall we'll exempt the two largest national forests, both in Alaska, the Tongass and the Chugach, and we'll let the governors get around it, too, under exceptional circumstances, like to reduce the risk of wildfire." So, in short, they're gutting it, without really doing away with it, and what it really means is more access to forest that's been off limits to new roads and logging.
EDWARDS: In Alaska, didn't Ray say that 95% of the forest will still remain roadless there?
ARNOLD: Well, he did, Bob. He was talking about the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. But to put that in context, you need to know that two thirds of the Tongass is actually rock and ice -- it's basically glacier. So, some thirty-plus timber sales that are already in the works there represent a pretty good portion of what's left of that forest....
Arnold went on to explain that the forests in question are far from populated areas, so it's not really necessary to prevent wildfires in them -- fires are appropriate in these forests and are allowed to happen, and as a result the forests aren't overgrown. So this isn't about dangerous wildfires at all.
Arnold also pointed out that Undersecretary Ray is a former timber-industry lobbyist.
It seems obvious what's going on. So how come the New York Times story on this rule change has the utterly misleading headline "Bush to Prohibit Building Roads Inside Forests"?