Hopes for the Next Four Years: Forests


Heart of the Northern Forest - Vermont

Courtesy of Larry Ely

The re-election of President Obama opens up new opportunities to protect wild places. The Wilderness Society will feature a series on what we hope to see in the next four years, both from the administration and from Congress.

First up - America's wild forests.

The Wilderness Society has high hopes that the coming four years will be an era of greater conservation and stewardship in our national forests.   Even with the continued polarization in Congress, there is much that the Obama Administration can do to protect and restore wildlife and wild places in the 193 million-acre National Forest System.  Here are a few of our top priorities:

  • Expand Protection of Roadless Areas.  The Roadless Area Conservation Rule banned most road building and logging on the 58 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas that the U.S. Forest Service had identified in 2000.  Since then, the Forest Service and citizen conservationists have located and mapped many additional roadless areas, but they currently lack the protection provided by the Roadless Rule.   We hope the Administration will issue direction to protect all of the remaining roadless areas, including those identified since 2000. 
  • Strengthen Protection of Recommended Wilderness.   Over the years, Forest Service management plans have identified millions of acres that are suitable for Wilderness designation, but Congress has not yet acted on the agency’s recommendations.   In the meantime, inconsistent management of the recommended wilderness areas has allowed degradation of some areas by off-road vehicles and other incompatible uses.   We urge the Administration to adopt a consistent policy that preserves wilderness character and prohibits motorized and mechanized vehicles within all recommended wilderness areas. 
  • Eliminate Unneeded and Damaging Roads.  The national forests are laced with thousands of miles of old roads that the Forest Service no longer needs and cannot afford to maintain.  These roads serve no recreational or other use, but they damage water quality and wildlife habitat.  We hope the Administration will expedite the Forest Service’s decision-making process for eliminating such roads.  We also urge Congress to provide the necessary funding for implementation through for the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation program. 

With these three simple ideas, the Administration and Congress could cement a conservation legacy for our national forests that will help generations to come enjoy our natural heritage.

Hopes for the Next Four Years