Heritage Forests Campaign Once They're Gone, They're Gone Forever
The Roadless Rule
Threats to Roadless Areas
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America's Roadless Areas
Enjoying Your Wild Forests
Roadless Areas by State
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Protecting America's National Forests, a report by the Heritage Forests Campaign

In This Section


" Repeal of the Roadless Rule

" Logging

" Mining

" Energy Extraction

Threats to Our Roadless Areas


Mostly concentrated in the western half of the United States, mines disturb large tracts of pristine forests and release harmful toxics, such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead into soil and groundwater. In 2000, Mining contaminated more than 40 percent of the stream reaches of western U.S watersheds (Environmental Protection Agency, 2000). The toxic runoffs from mines not only disturb local freshwater fish and wildlife but can also have a damaging effect on humans. Long-term exposure to arsenic is linked to skin cancer and other organ tumors, while cadmium exposure can cause kidney disease. Lead can stunt normal growth and development in children and some forms of mercury can cause damage to the nervous system.

Mining incursions in roadless areas are also dependent on constructing a large network of access roads. Road building damages the terrain and requires a great deal of money to construct and maintain. After all the resources are extracted, abandoned mines require more roads and cleanup teams to prevent toxic waste from damaging the ecosystem. In 2000, an environmental impact statement from the Forest Service identified 42 abandoned mine projects within inventoried roadless areas that would require approximately 21 miles of road construction or reconstruction to meet reclamation objectives. Clean up estimates for abandoned mines range anywhere from $32 to $72 billion.

Learn more about roadless areas in danger of mining incursions:

Photos of Forests