Hiking in Mountains/Forest Heritage Forests Campaign
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Wild Forest Protection: A Proud Legacy For Our Children

"We want the active and zealous help of every man far-sighted enough to realize the importance from the standpoint of the nation's welfare in the future of preserving the forests." President Theodore Roosevelt; Creator of the Modern National Forest System


In January 2001, following years of discussion and unprecedented public input, the US Forest Service issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. This critical policy protects the last 60 million acres of wild roadless areas of National Forests from most logging and road building. It stands as the most significant land conservation policy of the last 100 years.

Roadless Policy Still At Risk

ChartWhen President Bush took office, his administration delayed implementation of the policy and refused to defend it in court. On May 4, Agriculture Secretary Veneman announced the Bush administration's decision to uphold the rule, but that it would soon be amended, thereby opening an opportunity to gut the policy.

After a federal judge in Idaho sided with the timber industry and stopped the U.S. Forest Service from implementing the policy, the Bush administration on July 10, 2001, issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, posing broad "scoping" questions, with a 60-day public comment period. During this 60 day comment period more than 500,000 concerned Americans submitted official comments in support of the Roadless Rule to the Forest Serivce.

The Roadless Area Conservation Policy:

  • Protects 58.5 million acres of National Forest land stretching over 39 states, including 9.3 million acres of Alaska's Tongass National Forest;
  • Protects public access and recreational opportunities in the most pristine parts of National Forests as well as access to cultural and private properties.
  • Provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including more than 1600 threatened, endangered, or sensitive species
  • Safeguards the cleanest sources of drinking water for 60 million Americans; and
  • Allows for active local management to restore ecological processes, provide habitat for endangered species, and avert catastrophic wildfire.

Unprecedented Public Involvement

MapThe Roadless Area Conservation Policy resulted from two decades of broad debate and three years of discussion and public participation. More Americans took part in this rule-making process than in any other federal rule-making.

The Forest Service held more than 600 public meetings throughout the country and received a record-breaking 1.6 million+ official comments, more than 95% of which supported the strongest possible protection for remaining roadless areas. As of September 2001, more than 2 million Americans have voiced their support for the policy.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Never before have the American people so actively participated in helping to decide how their public lands should be managed."

Overwhelming Support For Protection

MapA poll completed in April 2001 by The Mellman Group revealed strong national support for the forest conservation policy. A strong majority of voters (67%) favored the policy with 49% saying their support is strong. 76% of Democrats, 66% of Independents and 58% of Republicans support protection. 71% of people from the Northeast, 68% of Midwesterners, 65% of Southerners and 64% of those in the West favor the policy.

Editorial Support Strong

Hundreds of newspapers from around the country are supporting the Roadless Area Conservation rule. Click here to go to the Press Room for a sampling.

Support By Hunting and Fishing Community

America's hunters and anglers support the protection of Roadless areas. Surveys find that 86% of anglers and 83% of hunters support conservation. Click here for more information on Polling.

Faith Community Support For Protection

In July 2000, two thousand religious leaders asked the Forest Service to protect National Forest roadless areas. "The instruction to care for creation is found in Scripture as well as other religious and ethical teachings," the letter's signatories stated. "It is often in wild places, such as pristine forests, that we encounter Creation's sheer magnificence. There, in awe and serenity, our hearts turn to God."

Scientific Support For Protection

In October 2000, 393 scientists from across the nation wrote, "In light of the irreplaceable functions these [roadless] areas serve, it is wise to provide them as much protection from development as possible."

Protection Best Averts Fire Risk

The scientific community has found that roadless areas are the least at risk for dangerous wildfires. Roadless areas are far more fire resistant than landscapes that have been crisscrossed with roads and logged, leaving behind slash, debris, and dense underbrush. Even the forest service makes this reality clear. Click here to see the Forest Service's Q&A on Fires.

Roadless Policy Threatened By Roll-Back

The forest conservation policy faces threats from those with economic or ideological interests in continuing to exploit our nation's last major roadless areas. President Bush's administration has delayed implementation and refused to defend the policy in court, preferring to plan amendments to the policy.

Now, the policy, and our last wild National Forests have been put in further jeopardy. In May 2001, an Idaho Federal Judge granted the timber industry's request for an injunction and prevented the policy from taking effect, leaving the forests at risk. President Bush is now considering how to proceed. Faced with overwhelming public support for the policy he is left to listen either to the American people or to the special interests.

Copyright 1998-2001 Heritage Forests Campaign. All Rights Reserved.