UTAH’S RESPONSE TO THE ROADLESS RULE
While the roadless rule still runs its legal course, the Bush administration has implemented its own version which allows deep state participation through a formal rule making process springing from the Governor’s office and to be completed by this November (see HUPC LYNX 6/05). The Governor of Oregon simply petitioned the Secretary of Agriculture to implement the original “Clinton” roadless rule (see HUPC LYNX 2/01), already half a decade past. Denied!
The Governor of Virginia just petitioned the Secretary of Agriculture to protect all roadless areas in Virginia national forests under the Bush rule. No response yet.
Originally it appeared as though Governor Huntsman was not going to utilize the petition process and simply accept the decisions made by the Forest Service planning process (a process, so far in Utah, less than even mediocre with roadless area protection and wilderness recommendations being routinely minimized). However, in mid-December it appeared as though a change was afoot with the Governor apparently going to the state’s county commissioners and asking for advice on how to pursue the roadless issue.
Thus we promptly expressed our concerns to Governor Huntsman with respect to the ongoing discussions surrounding preservation of Forest Service roadless lands, particularly, of course, with the most wild and biologically diverse roadless landscapes surrounding, contiguous and adjacent to the High Uintas Wilderness in northeastern Utah.
We urged the Governor, if indeed he plans to meet the roadless area petition rule, to vigorously and promptly open this effort to a timely and broad public review process—rising above the minimum public effort to a full, transparent and objective review of roadless area values.
We noted the two largest roadless areas in Utah surround and are contiguous to the existing 460,000 acres High Uintas Wilderness (HUW)—some 420,000 acres of wild country is contiguous to the HUW on the Ashley and Wasatch-Cache national Forests. An additional 120,000 acres of extraordinarily wild lands are separated from the main block of the Uintas by the Mirror Lake Highway and run west to Kamas Valley—the Lakes Roadless Area, our proposed Mt. Watson Wilderness. The Uintas are a truly stunning geographic region, unmatched in size and wild integrity, not only distinguished in Utah but throughout the Intermountain West! An unparalleled opportunity exists for Governor Huntsman to initiate formal protection of one of the largest, most beautiful, ecologically intact areas in the lower ’48.
While we are skeptical of this roadless petition process because it is unnecessary and capricious, we offered our