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Not a bit surprising, the Bush Administration and the Forest Service have dropped the roadless rule (see HUPC LYNX 8/04) adopted during the last days of the Clinton Administration and supplanted it with a new rule-making process that allows state governors to petition the Forest Service to establish or adjust management requirements for roadless areas. In other words, roadless area protection will be determined through the formal Forest Service planning process—a dismal history, to say the least— allowing a governor to petition the Forest Service and ask that the “management requirements” for roadless area protection be decreased, for example, within 18 months of the final date of this rule. The Forest Service can either reject or accept a petition and initiate a state specific rule-making and public involvement process.

Remember, just recently the Wasatch-Cache National Forest Plan could only muster formal protection of the North Slope Uintas roadless area on about 30% of the acreage, with barely half the acreage on the Lakes Roadless Area being formally protected as roadless (and 94% of this roadless area was opened to snowmobiles.) And not to be forgotten, the Wasatch recommended a miniscule 35,000 acres of the 122,000 acre Lakes Roadless Area as wilderness but allowed snowmobile use even on this acreage!

So backward we go, defying all of the rhetoric of how much the Forest Service is committed to protecting roadless country. Never mind the scientific literature, which is now deep and replete with meaningful review and analysis to why and how important the last roadless areas are to protection of wildness, wildlife, water quality, and natural ecological processes.

Someday there may be a national roadless rule that will survive the divisive and hate-filled politics of this era, but more likely we are going to have to come to grips with the simple reality the roadless areas will be protected on a forest by forest basis and with passion for places, not for proposals. Your voice is fundamental. If it is vigorous and distinct, roadless areas will not fade. The Forest Service has made it clear it simply can’t assemble the institutional commitment or ethics to protect wild and roadless landscapes.

Nonetheless, please consider commenting on this backward-looking roadless rule and remind the Forest Service that they are a National Forest Service, beholden to ecological principles and public land policy/ management, not custodians to the 39 governors whose states harbor roadless areas.

Send your comments, they must arrive before September 14, to:
Content Analysis Team,
Attn: Roadless State Petitions,
USDA Forest Service,
P. O. Box 221090
SLC, UT 84122
or by email to

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