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A recent poll taken by a non-profit organization shows a majority of
respondents oppose the Clinton administration’s recent proposal to set
aside 40 million acres to be designated as “roadless” area,
contradicting earlier data gathered by the Mellman Group, which
indicated a majority of the public would support the White House
proposal.

The Paragon Foundation, a public education, constitutional rights
organization in Alamogordo, N.M., conducted its poll to “give the
average rank-and-file American a chance to vote.” The poll was
conducted by publishing a questionnaire nationwide in newspapers,
magazines and on the Internet. Respondents either clipped out the
survey and mailed it to the foundation or participated in the poll via
the group’s website.

In the counting process, which was open to the public and conducted
by volunteers, 2,229 people responded to the Paragon Poll. Jay Walley,
public relations director for the foundation, said the poll had a margin
of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

In the poll, an overwhelming 68 percent of the respondents said
protecting jobs, communities and industries that depend on public lands
was more important than protecting land from commercial use. Thirty
percent thought public lands should be protected from commercial use
while two percent were undecided.

Another 68 percent thought that building roads on public lands should
be allowed while 67 percent thought the United States had enough
protected wilderness. Only 27 percent and 30 percent said “no” to both
questions respectively with a small contingency being undecided.

These survey results sharply contradict the earlier Mellman poll paid
for by the Pew Charitable Trust and commissioned by the Heritage Forests
Campaign, The Wilderness Society and The National Audubon Society. In
the Mellman poll, 63 percent of the respondents thought not enough of
the nation’s forests were protected, and 74 percent of them would
support a plan that would not exempt any national forests from a
roadless protection policy.

The Wilderness society noted that the Mellman poll, conducted in June
of this year, was an important factor in persuading the Clinton
administration to announce the roadless area plan last Wednesday while
speaking before an audience in the George Washington and Jefferson
National Forest in Virginia.

Explaining his roadless protection policy to his listeners, Clinton
had said, “Through this action, we will protect more than 40 million
acres, 20 percent of the total forest land in America in the national
forests from activities, such as new road construction, which would
degrade the land.”

During the speech, Clinton boasted that his administration has now
protected more land than any other administration in the history of the
country except those of Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt. He also took
the opportunity to announce a second proposal — a $1 billion Lands
Legacy Initiative, which would guarantee permanent funding over the
years for continued protection and restoration of public lands
throughout the nation.

Although 40 million acres could be set aside as “roadless” areas,
George Frampton, chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental
Quality, said the day after Clinton’s announcement that a potential “50
or 55 million acres of roadless area on the national forests nationwide
could be protected.”

Although admitting that his foundation’s poll was timely, Walley said
the poll was not planned.

“We did not know at the time that Clinton was going to announce his
roadless area plan,” Walley said. “It just so happened we were compiling
our results when that statement came out, so it was just a really timely
situation.”

Walley told WorldNetDaily his group wanted to do the poll because it
believes those working in the resource-based industries weren’t well
represented in the Mellman poll. The group also did the poll, Walley
said, because, in the foundation’s view, the Mellman poll was flawed.

“We considered the poll flawed because of the fact of who paid for
it,”
Mellman said.

Even though Walley said the foundation’s poll was not a response to
the president’s proposal but rather a response to the Mellman poll, a
timely question regarding Clinton’s proposal was asked.

“Would you favor a proposal that permanently protects all roadless
areas of 1,000 acres or greater on public lands?” asked one of the
poll’s questions.

Only 29 percent of the respondents said “yes” to this question, while
69 percent said “no.”

Other questions asked in the Paragon poll were related to the
possibility of prohibitions in wilderness areas including use of
off-road vehicles, oil and mineral exploration, logging, and livestock
grazing. For each question, respondents decisively opposed any
prohibition in public wilderness areas.

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