Four percent of the nation’s forested public wildlands remain undeveloped today. These landscapes are either designated wilderness or lands that qualify for designation. Many lands not protected as wilderness are called roadless areas. There are about 60 million acres of unprotected roadless lands on our national forests.
The federal government established the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule in response to the potential development of these roadless landscapes and vast public sentiment calling for their protection. Idaho then petitioned the Bush administration for a separate rule. That resulted in the 2008 Idaho Roadless Rule, which established a controversial five-theme approach to how America’s wildlands could be managed in Idaho. Four of five themes imposed fewer road building and logging restrictions than the national rule, resulting in 84 percent of the state’s roadless base (9 million acres) being vulnerable to development. The Idaho Roadless Rule is a gift to the timber industry.
Friends of the Clearwater, a forest watch group in Moscow, Idaho, just published a report titled “The Roadless Report: Analyzing the Impacts of Two Roadless Rules on Forested Wildlands.” According to the agency’s own preliminary data, the Forest Service has authorized the development of 40,000-50,000 acres of roadless wildlands in Idaho and Montana combined.
The report also details the Forest Service’s shift in its project-specific road building and logging analysis and the impacts to roadless area characteristics. In the 1990s, it frequently concluded that development degrades and eliminates roadless area characteristics. That mostly held true from 2001-2008 as well. Shortly thereafter, however, the agency began concluding that development improves roadless characteristics for site-specific projects.
Today, many national forests across the West are revising their forest plans. The agency is mandated to assess undeveloped wildlands and potentially recommend areas for wilderness during this process. During the process, however, some forests also dropped previously logged areas from their roadless inventory.
Please tell your members of Congress that the Forest Service is being completely disingenuous and attempting to bulldoze and log America’s last wild places. We need congressional oversight of the agency.
Brett Haverstick, Education and outreach director, Friends of the Clearwater, Moscow, Idaho