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HUPC ACTION ALERT: ROADLESS AREA POLICY Needs Your Wild Voice! Comments are due December 20!

  1. Background
    Some of you will remember the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE) of the early 1970s. Initiated by the Forest Service in response to conservationists concerns over protection of roadless lands in early forest planning efforts, it was challenged and largely repudiated for significant flaws and bias against wilderness recommendations.

    A few years later the Carter Administration ordered the Forest Service to initiate another roadless review, RARE II. It also sailed sideways into controversy, was challenged and now stands as another Forest Service monument to bias against identifying, protecting roadless lands and recommending meaningful wilderness proposals.

    Following RARE II was a sort of RARE III along with a statutory requirement to inventory roadless lands and make wilderness recommendations through the ongoing forest planning process. While we are presently facing the forest planning requirements of inventorying and recommending the fate of roadless lands on the Wasatch, the concern over roadless lands, of course, goes far beyond the early 1970s. Dating back to the mid and late 1920s, Aldo Leopold and, a bit later, Robert Marshall, both dedicated Forest Service professionals with a bit of rabble- rousing in their blood, sparked the debate of how to protect these roadless areas-- landscapes they feared 60 and 70 years ago were rapidly disappearing.

    Since the late 1950s when Senator Hubert Humphrey introduced the first version of the Wilderness Act, later to become law in 1964 (see THE LYNX,10/99), the issue of wilderness and protection of wild, undeveloped landscapes has dogged the Forest Service. The issue has become a symbol of crucial importance, of a deeper understanding of land and our relation to the world and, unfortunately, of resistance to that understanding by the Forest Service as an institution, even though many Forest Service employees stand proudly on the shoulders of Leopold and Marshall.
  2. A New Roadless Initiative
    So we are now facing a new roadless initiative--hopefully, one with a bit more vision and depth!

    In October President Clinton instructed the Forest Service to initiate a process to protect the nation's forest roadless landscapes. It is important to note here that this follows in the footsteps of the decision by the Forest Service to halt road building and development for an 18 month interim period in roadless areas-- both are a testament to a changing Forest Service under the direction of Chief Mike Dombeck and a growing cadre of Forest Service folks who understand the legacy of a national forest system isn't measured in board feet or miles of roads but in an ecological vision for the forests.

    Thus the Forest Service has set in motion a rule making process which will result in an Environmental Impact Statement (a draft EIS is expected in spring 2000) likely to protect at a minimum some 40 million acres of roadless areas (RARE II inventory). It is not without controversy-- with almost no imagination, one can conjure the opponents of such a long term, ecological, spiritual and true multiple use vision. A bit over 50% of the National Forest System is already intensively developed and layered with over 380,000 miles of developed roads, to say nothing of the nearly 60,000 miles of ruts and tracks created by ORVs.

    And in a way it is a sad statement that it has taken this process to push the agency forward. Even the most progressive of forests like the Wasatch-Cache shy from making a bold and powerful statement that it is simply important to protect the half of the forest not yet developed. In the proposed action (see The Wild Uintas, this edition), the forest recommended that 65% of all roadless acreage on the forest be given a management prescription which allows some form of road development. Over half of the individual roadless areas received no formal roadless protection of any sort. Less than half of the High Uintas roadless areas received some form of roadless protection. On the Ogden Ranger District only 23% of the roadless acreage received roadless protection-- a good 23%, no doubt about that, but only 23%! On the Logan District only a pint-size chunk of roadless lands-- 13%-- received formal roadless protection. And many of these areas protected were left open to rambunctious snowmobiling! It is true: THIS IS A DRAFT PROPOSAL OPEN TO EXTENSIVE PUBLIC COMMENT and, we hope, will likely change in the context of a broader view of wildness.
  3. What this Initiative Does
    We are at the initial scoping level with the Forest Service proposing a two part process and asking some specific questions.

    Part I immediately protects inventoried (RARE II) roadless areas. Part II establishes direction for managing inventoried roadless areas and how uninventoried roadless areas should be protected. Uninventoried roadless areas are simply those areas or additions to inventoried roadless areas that have been discovered now that the Forest Service has clear roadless criteria and an emphasis to do a good inventory. The difference is that these areas would be inventoried and protected as part of the planning process.
  4. What to Do!
    The unresolved concerns which need your comments are: 1) All roadless areas of 1,000 acres or more should be protected. This assures the potential for a meaningful network of roadless lands serving as a set of core ecological preserves. 2) All road building activities, not just logging, must be halted in these areas, including off road vehicle use, snowmobiling, and oil and gas and mineral development. 3) For this policy to make any sense, all national forests must be part and parcel of the policy, including Alaska s Tongass. 4) Of course, it is important to reflect on the value of roadless lands, particularly your personal values. Speak directly to the roadless areas adjacent to the High Uintas Wilderness-- we are looking at 200,000 acres of a single roadless area surrounding the Wilderness and the 120,000 acres of the Lakes roadless area. These lands, combined with the High Uintas Wilderness, comprise nearly 800,000 acres of wild, contiguous land. Nothing matches it for sheer scope or wild diversity or wildness in Utah!

Dick Carter

Send your comments before December 20 to: USDA Forest Service- CAET Attention: Roadless Areas NOI P.O. Box 221090 SLC, UT 84122 or email: roadless/wo_caet-slc@fs.fed.us


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