Heritage Forests Campaign Once They're Gone, They're Gone Forever
The Roadless Rule
Threats to Roadless Areas
Politics and Policy
America's Roadless Areas
Enjoying Your Wild Forests
Roadless Areas by State
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Fact Sheets & Reports
Roadless Cartoons
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Protecting America's National Forests, a report by the Heritage Forests Campaign

In This Section


" About the Roadless Rule

" Economics of Roadless Areas

" Environmental Benefits

" Recreational Benefits

" Roadless Rule Timeline

Forests Protect the Environment

Our national forests unite all Americans in the ownership of a common treasure that benefits our way of life, our environment and our health in ways that are incalculable. Covering nearly one-third of the National Forest System, these roadless areas represent 45 of the 83 "ecoregions" found in the continental U.S. and Alaska. These unique forest ecology types range from the lush temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest to the extraordinarily species-diverse mountains of the Southern Appalachians.

Roadless forests do the following to strengthen our environment:

  • Safeguard clean water from more than 2,000 watersheds, the source of drinking water for 60 million Americansmore than half of roadless areas intersect watersheds that provide drinking water to local communities
  • Improve and protect the quality of our air
  • Protect water quality for fishing and swimming
  • Preserve critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including more than 1,600 threatened, endangered or sensitive plant and animal species
  • Provide large, relatively undisturbed landscapes important for protecting the web of life
  • Offer opportunities for scientific study and research

Logging's Dangerous Effects on the Environment

Scientists have urged the federal government to protect roadless pristine national forestlands for their ecological value to our country. One of the best examples was in 2004, some of the most prominent educators and researchers in the U.S. wrote a letter to the Forest Service urging them to retain the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

They said, in part:

There is growing consensus among the scientific community that a strong roadless conservation rule is one of the cornerstones to sustainable public lands management, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem health of the National forests. Therefore, we request that you reinstate the 2001 Roadless Conservation Rule that received very thoughtful input by scientists and the public.

Their letter went on to point out that road building, logging and mining in these forests pose numerous environmental problems that impede nature's delicate checks and balances. These negative effects include:

  • Disruption of water flow
  • Increased erosion, air and water pollution
  • Spread of invasive exotics species
  • Significant road mortality and avoidance by wildlife
  • Habitat destruction and fragmentation
  • Reduction of a forest's resistance to fire
  • Decrease of natural forest resiliency from insect outbreaks

Find out more:

Photos of Forests