By Matthew Power. In recent months, environmentalists from the Rainforest Action Network made the news when they dubbed wood products company Boise (formerly Boise Cascade) their "top enemy of forest protection." The group cited the company's continued harvesting of old-growth timber, along with its aggressive resistance to the federal roadless policy instituted by the Clinton administration.

Is Boise as bad as the environmental lobby makes it out to be? Boise's media relations manager Ralph Poore notes that only 1 percent of Boise's timber comes from old-growth forests, and the company has plans to get out of that business. Also, Boise was instrumental in the creation of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

"We are phasing out harvesting of old growth by 2004," Poore says. "We have some contracts that we are obligated to fulfill until then--mostly with the federal government." It canceled a project in Southern Chile in 2001 that would have meant heavy logging of that country's old-growth reserves.

On putting more roads in protected federal forests, the company makes no bones about its opposition to the rule, but takes solace in the fact that it was just one of more than 40 plaintiffs that filed lawsuits against the roadless policy. "Ownership of forest land is often in a checkerboard pattern," says Poore. "If federal land catches fire, for example, the fires can burn onto our land. We believe the roads are necessary for access."

"We're deeply committed to conservation values," Poore adds. "Old growth is a very small part of our operation."