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Protecting America's National Forests, a report by the Heritage Forests Campaign

Benefits of The Roadless Rule

Many Americans, young and old, fondly remember backpacking, camping, hiking, fishing, and picnicking in our country’s spectacular national forests. Sadly, more and more of these scenic landscapes are being ripped apart by commercial development and lost forever.

The benefits of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule are clear:

  • Our nation’s last remaining roadless areas provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including more than 1,600 threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant and animal species;

  • Roadless areas serve as bulwarks against the spread of non-native invasive species;

  • They are home to more than 2,000 major watersheds that contribute to public drinking water sources for over 60 million people around the nation.

  • They present opportunities for stepping outside of the hustle and bustle of daily life and returning to nature;

  • They provide exceptional recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, cross country skiing, rock climbing, bird-watching, canoeing, rafting, kayaking, and mountain biking.

  • They offer opportunities for scientific study and research; and,

  • They preserve areas needed for traditional Native American religious and cultural observances.

Permanently setting aside the country’s remaining unspoiled forest areas also makes sound economic sense:

  • America’s national forests are already covered with 386,000 miles of roads -- enough to circle the earth 15 times. Short-term logging projects, old mining paths, and wear and tear from off-road vehicles have created another 60,000 miles.

  • The Forest Service has more than an $8 billion backlog of deferred maintenance and reconstruction of existing roads. These roads continue to deteriorate, making passenger car travel more difficult and adversely affecting watersheds and wildlife.

  • Annual budget allocations average less than 20 percent of the dollars actually needed to properly maintain existing roads.

  • Deficits from the federal timber program, which includes road building and maintenance, have reached monumental proportions. The General Accounting Office (GAO) reports that the Forest Service timber program lost $995 million between 1992-1994

  • Less than one quarter of one percent of the total U.S. timber supply comes from roadless areas.

We have a responsibility to protect these special places as an enduring legacy for future generations.

Photos of Forests