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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Hails Clinton Administration Efforts to Protect Our Nation's Pristine Forest Heritage

Rabbi Warren Stone: "May it be that years hence, our children and our children's children will look back with appreciation to this moment as one in which we heeded a great moral imperative of our time - to fulfill our sacred obligation to preserve and protect the earth in all its majesty for those who will follow."

Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, October 13, 1999 — In response to President Clinton's announcement today of a sweeping new initiative to protect a significant portion of the remaining roadless areas in America's National Forests, Rabbi Warren Stone, Environment Chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, issued the following statement on behalf of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Stone joined President Clinton and other environmental leaders as the President made his announcement from the George Washington National Forest.

The full text of Rabbi Stone's statement follows:

We commend President Clinton's actions today which we hope will protect the remaining 60 million acres of unprotected National Forests. Currently, less than 18 percent of National Forest Service lands are permanently protected from road development. Of our National Forests, 51 percent — over 90 million acres — are already crisscrossed by roads with a combined length that is eight times greater than that of the Interstate Highway system. Those roads scar the land, interrupting fragile ecosystems in service of industrial activity that despoils our national park forest lands. Today's Presidential initiative will ensure that we leave a permanent legacy of the remaining 60 million acres of currently unprotected forests for future generations.

The protection of the roadless regions coincides with our religious beliefs as Jews. For years, we have watched with dismay as many of God's unique creatures have been driven to extinction, largely due to the loss of key habitats, including forest ecosystems. Preventing the construction of new roads in currently roadless National Forests will help facilitate the safety of God's creatures in the wild by keeping disruptions far away from the vital and irreplaceable ecosystems that it is our sacred obligation to protect. That stewardship obligation, firmly rooted in biblical tradition, demands not only that we seek to mitigate our effects on the Earth, but also that we actively work to improve the world, to restore, as much as possible, its initial splendor. As God told the Israelites, "The land is mine and you are but my tenants" (Leviticus 25:23).

Today's move by the Clinton Administration is a valuable first step toward meeting our obligations. We fervently hope that this initiative will eventually lead to the complete protection of roadless areas in all National Forests, including the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, our largest National Forest.

The establishment of the National Forests was a moment of great foresight and import in our national history. May it be that years hence, our children and our children's children will look back with appreciation to this moment as one in which we heeded a great moral imperative of our time — to fulfill our sacred obligation to preserve and protect the earth in all its majesty for those who will follow. May it be that this initiative - from the desk of the most conservation-conscious President our nation has ever known — will mark the beginning of a renewed commitment to stewardship, to conservation, and to preservation. May it be that, in the tradition of the Creation, all of us can say of today's policy and the ethic we hope it will engender, "This is good."

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.



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