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



Issued in January 2001 following the most extensive public rulemaking in history, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule protects 58.5 million acres of wild national forest land from most commercial logging and road-building. With more than one-half of America's national forests already open to logging, mining, and drilling, the rule was intended to preserve the last third of undeveloped forest lands as a home for wildlife, a haven for recreation, and a heritage for future generations. In May 2001, under pressure from Congress and the public, the Bush administration pledged to uphold the rule, promising only minor changes. However, since that time, the administration has taken a series of actions that contradict its promise, undoing critical national forest protections.


"The roadless policy would refocus resources on maintaining roads while protecting wildlife habitat and watershed quality. Those are important goals. Even more important is the recognition that managing the forests is about more than the extraction of resources, no matter how carefully." (Editorial, The Washington Post, May 2, 2001)

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule's major benefits include:

  • Protecting 58.5 million acres of national forest land in 39 states;

  • Maintaining current public access and recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, hunting and fishing;

  • Preserving critical habitat for more than 1500 species of fish and wildlife, including many threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant and animal species;

  • Safeguarding clean water from forest headwaters and streams, the source of drinking water for millions of Americans.


"With this plan the Forest Service strikes a balance, too often missing in the past, between the importance of exploiting natural resources and the value of preserving wilderness. It's the right balance and it ought to be maintained." (Editorial, The Washington Post, January 7, 2001)

While providing critical ecological forest protection, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule:

  • Allows new roads to be built in specified circumstances, such as to fight fires or in the event that other natural events threaten public safety;

  • Allows logging of certain timber to reduce the risk of wildfire;

  • Provides full access for recreational activities such as backpacking, camping, hunting and fishing, and closes no existing road or trail;

  • Permits expansion of oil and gas operations within existing and renewed leasing areas;

  • Does not change state or private landowners' right to access their land.

Photos of Forests