The Roadless Rule is one of the most important pieces of conservation policy from the last few decades, and you’re not alone if you’ve never heard of it.
Back in the early 2000’s, the Clinton administration decided to develop a new policy to protect undeveloped national forest lands from new road building, logging, and other extractive activity. The proposed Rule was extremely popular and generated historic public support through more than 600 public hearings and more than 1.6 million comments. Today, 29% of National Forests are undeveloped roadless areas, 19% are Wilderness, 9% are other designations (including National Monuments, Wild & Scenic Rivers, and special management areas), and the remaining 40% are open for logging, drilling, mining, and other resource extraction.
For outdoor recreationists, the Roadless Rule has been important for protecting outdoor recreation. While roadless areas are protected from new development, their management is less restrictive than in Wilderness, which gives important middle ground for many kinds of recreation, from mountain biking to motorized use.
A few states have asked the Forest Service for state-specific Roadless Rules. For the most part, these state rules have turned out okay, and have allowed states to determine more specific “tiers” of protection for roadless areas. In Colorado, our involvement in building a Colorado Roadless Rule helped to secure even greater protections for 1.2 million acres of roadless forests. Some recent challenges to the Roadless Rule, like that in Alaska, are specifically about extraction. Whereas Colorado was seeking more personalized protections, Alaska has shared its outright goal to log the Tongass National Forest.
In the fall of 2018, Utah announced its intent to petition the Forest Service for a Utah Roadless Rule. Unlike Alaska, Utah is a bit more opaque about why it wants a state-specific Rule. The state has shared its concerns about wildfire prevention; however, logging and road building have been shown to increase fire risk. Utah has a history of advocating for local control over its public lands, but the state doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to keeping public lands public. Outdoor Alliance, led by its local network in Utah, is working with the governor’s office and others in Utah to share our concerns about a state-specific Rule. We will also advocate for the continued protection of important backcountry roadless areas, including parts of the Wasatch and the Manti-La Sal National Forest, among others. You can read our full letter to the Governor at right or by clicking here. Get involved in protecting Utah’s roadless forests by signing up below: