Roadless area conservation

Roadless area conservation

Roadless area conservation is a conservation policy limiting road construction and the resulting environmental impact on designated areas of public land. In the United States, roadless area conservation has centered on U.S. Forest Service areas known as inventoried roadless areas. The most significant effort to support the conservation of these efforts was the Forest Service 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule).


Access roads provide convenient access for industry as well as for a variety of recreational activities, such as sightseeing, fishing, hunting, and off-roading. However, these activities can cause erosion, pollution, species loss, [ [ BLM restricts off-road travel on southern Utah badlands] ] and even loss of aesthetic appeal.

In the United States, roadless areas make up 58.5 million acres (237,000 km²), or about 30%, of National Forest lands in 38 states and Puerto Rico. These areas provide critical habitat for more than 1,600 threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant and animal species. [ [ National Forest Roadless Areas]] Roadless rules are also seen as a way to save taxpayers money. America’s National Forests are currently covered with 386,000 miles of roads, enough to encircle the earth 15 times. A $4.5-billion maintenance backlog exists on National Forest roads, according to the agency's own estimates. [USFS Budget Justification 2006]

One example of roadless area conservation is Alaska's Denali National Park, which is prized for its expansive roadless area. There is but one 90-mile access road into the park; only official vehicles are permitted after 30 miles. [ [ Denali National Park and Preserve Denali Park Road Open to Mile 30]]


Roadless area conservation is not without criticism—especially from mining and lumber industry officials, as well as from politicians, Libertarian and Federalist political groups, and ORV enthusiasts.

Political conflict in the U.S.

On January 12, 2001, after nearly three years of analysis, the U.S. Forest Service adopted the Roadless Area Conservation Rule to conserve 58.5 million acres (237,000 km²) of pristine National Forests and Grasslands from most logging and road construction. [ [ National Forest Roadless Areas] ] When he entered office, current U.S. President George W. Bush modified these regulations to allow a more autonomous approach, wherein state governments would be permitted to designate their own roadless areas.

On September 20, 2006, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled against the Bush Administration's plan to reverse the Clinton-era regulations, saying that the Bush plan "established a new regime in which management of roadless areas within the national forests would, for the first time, vary not just forest by forest but state by state. This new approach raises a substantial question about the rule's potential effect on the environment." [ [ Judge Axes Bush Reversal of Roadless Rule] ] On November 29, 2006, Judge Laporte issued an order to ban road construction on 327 oil and gas leases issued by the Bush administration since January 2001, most of them in Colorado, Utah, and North Dakota—areas that were already protected before the Bush Administration's reversal of the 2001 law. [ [ U.S. Court Bans Oil and Gas Roads on Roadless National Forests] ]

In literature

A notable American proponent of roadless wilderness areas was writer Edward Abbey in his book Desert Solitaire. In his essay "Industrial Tourism and the National Parks", Abbey describes road construction as "unnecessary or destructive development" and the loss of wilderness as a consequence of what he called industrial tourism, where once-secluded natural areas become popularized and degraded. [ [ POLEMIC: INDUSTRIAL TOURISM AND THE NATIONAL PARKS] ]

ee also

*Inventoried roadless area


External links

* [ U.S. Department of Agriculture site on roadless area conservation]
* [ U.S. Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation Maps]
* [ The Wilderness Society — National Forest Roadless Areas]
* [ Roadlessland — Interactive maps of all U.S. roadless areas, with photos]

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