A decade after it was first adopted by the U.S. Forest Service, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule has proven to be remarkably successful in protecting the 58.5 million acres of national forest roadless areas from road building and logging. Only about 75 miles of road building has occurred in the roadless areas – far less than the Forest Service had predicted a decade ago -- and just a miniscule fraction of the unroaded forests has been logged, mostly in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. However, eight years of unrelenting legal, political, and on-the-ground attacks during the Bush administration have taken their toll on the Roadless Rule, especially in Idaho and Alaska, which together hold more than one-quarter of all national forest roadless areas.
While the Obama administration has generally been very supportive of the Roadless Rule, roadless areas continue to face numerous threats from mining, oil and gas drilling, off-road vehicles, and other harmful activities. In addition, conflicting court decisions have created uncertainty about the Roadless Rule’s legality, which could be resolved very soon by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Public support and involvement will be crucial to ensure that national forest roadless areas continue to provide a multitude of environmental and economic benefits to society