Exploring the Roadless Area Conservation Rule


Treehuggers International is very pleased to welcome Mike Anderson, the Senior Resource Analyst from the Wilderness Society’s Pacific Northwest office in Seattle, to talk about roadless areas and the Wilderness Society’s role in the creation of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

…Some 58 million acres of National Forest lands in the United States are made up of inventoried roadless areas. These are areas where no marked inroads of civilization have occurred, and the land remains in a truly wild, primitive state. The character of these lands ranges from vast expanses of apparent nothingness, to high-value aesthetic and natural resource-laden lands, often adjoining National Parks or designated Wilderness. The drinking water of 60 million Americans begins in some 2,000 watersheds in the nation’s National Forests, and most of those watersheds are in roadless areas.

…Today, the Forest Service has infinitely more miles of roads on its hands than it can possibly afford to maintain, and a movement has been afoot to allow some seldom-used roads with little or no trailhead access or remaining resource use to “go back to nature” by no longer maintaining them. However, with the rise in popularity of thrill-craft and other off-road vehicles which can literally scale mountains and chew across the land, leaving vast swaths of ruts in their wake (something the first dirt bike enthusiasts never dreamed of and likely never intended 60 years ago), abandoned or seldom-maintained forest roads still enable entry for ORVs into primitive, wilderness-quality backcountry areas. If a roadless area is severely compromised by unregulated or illegal ORV use, it too, may no longer be considered “untrammeled by man” and removed from wilderness consideration.