Administration Takes Action to Safeguard Roadless Areas

Administration Takes Action to Safeguard Roadless Areas
Directive issued today defers backcountry management decisions to the secretary of Agriculture, helps conserve important fish and wildlife habitat and sustain outdoor traditions.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

WASHINGTON, DC – -( A decision today by the Obama administration to issue a “timeout” on development of inventoried roadless areas was lauded by prominent outdoor-oriented groups that support responsible backcountry management and the exceptional sporting and recreational opportunities provided by these public lands. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association and Izaak Walton League of America support the move by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to issue a directive requiring high-level review of proposed backcountry development until permanent rules for these areas’ management can be resolved.

“We’re pleased that the administration has elected to undertake this action and affirm its support of responsible management of inventoried roadless areas,” said Joel Webster, TRCP associate director of campaigns, “and we look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack and the Department of Agriculture in ensuring that America’s outdoor traditions, including hunting and angling, are sustained by conserving these important backcountry public lands.”

Today’s memorandum from the Agriculture Department establishes the secretary’s “decision-making authority over the construction and reconstruction of roads and the cutting, sale or removal of timber in inventoried roadless areas on certain lands administered by the Forest Service.”

“Every American who appreciates and enjoys the vast range of amenities provided by our nation’s outdoors has reason to support today’s decision by the administration,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater and OA roadless campaign director. “Whether they are climbers, hikers, backcountry skiers, mountain bikers or paddlers, outdoor recreationists agree that our national forest roadless areas play a crucial role in enabling and upholding our country’s outdoor traditions.”

Close to 60 million acres of roadless areas are encompassed within America’s national forests and grasslands. A series of conflicting court decisions regarding the 2001 roadless rule have left management of these areas unsettled for years. Many outdoors-oriented groups support national legislation that conserves America’s backcountry lands and the fish and wildlife, sporting and recreational resources they sustain.

“Thanks to decisive leadership by Secretary Vilsack, sportsmen and other outdoor recreationists can look forward to our continued ability to enjoy the irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat and high-quality outdoor experiences facilitated by backcountry areas,” said Kevin Proescholdt, IWLA director of wilderness and public lands and member of the TRCP’s Roadless Initiative Working Group, “and we stand ready to assist the secretary in working to conserve these public lands into the long-term future.”

The secretary’s announcement also has implications for roadless areas located in Colorado, where the state has been engaged in developing a plan for their management. Specific projects proposed in Colorado roadless areas will be subject to secretarial-level review under the new directive because the Colorado roadless rule has not been completed.

“Today’s decision by the administration means that hastily finalizing the Colorado roadless rule won’t be in keeping with the way the rest of the national forests are being managed across the United States,” said Amy Roberts, OIA vice president of government affairs. “Responsible management of Colorado’s roadless areas will help maintain the billions of dollars annually generated by active outdoor recreation in this country. In today’s troubled economy, Americans are relying on sustainable forms of revenue like these more than ever.”

“Ultimately, America’s roadless areas are essential in supporting the range of public-lands outdoor traditions that form the bedrock of our national identity,” Webster concluded. “Every citizen has reason to applaud this reasonable and prescient move by the administration to guarantee that this unique identity will endure.”

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions
of hunting and fishing.