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.
The radio crackled the news as I slowed and turned right off state Highway 41 west of Homestead. “Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today announced plans to establish a new Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge.”
“Halleluiah”! I shouted as I drove across the levee and up the gravel rise to park with a view of a vast ocean of marshy grassland bordering the busy trans-Everglades two-lane highway known as the Tamiami Trail (or, more colloquially, “Alligator Alley.”)
Despite our best efforts, the 111th Congress adjourned without taking action on land bills, including the 20 wilderness bills The Wilderness Society supported totaling over two million acres of Wilderness designations we hoped to pass. Here’s how it happened and what’s next.
Unique and previously unprotected places like New Mexico’s Otero Mesa grasslands, Wyoming’s Adobe Town badlands and Utah’s red rock canyons have a new chance at receiving protections they need and deserve.
“Today our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the victims of this senseless crime. Rep. Giffords is a committed public servant working in the best interests of Arizonans and all Americans. We join with the rest of the country in condemning violence and aggression. We will continue to keep the victims close in our hearts.”
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in Wilderness Magazine, our annual publication that features in-depth coverage and features about the day’s most pressing conservation issues. Become a member and receive a free copy!
As we prepare to meet conservation challenges presented in the new Congress, it’s a good time to assess — and celebrate — the progress we made for wildlands protection in 2010.
Times have changed dramatically since the Bush days when we were holding the line against every environmental attack imaginable, but threats from climate change, oil and gas drilling, development, off-road vehicle abuse and other dangers still abound for public lands.