Got questions? We’ve got answers
Q: What is roadless backcountry land?
A: First, the term roadless is a misnomer. Many stretches of roadless habitat on U.S. Forest Service have roads inside their boundaries. Others are bounded by paved roads and highways. Many roadless areas are actually eligible for new road construction. In general, however, roadless land is untracked, untrashed public land that offers stellar fish and game habitat and unparalleled hunting and fishing opportunity.
Q: What uses are allowed in the roadless backcountry?
A: Most any use that is allowed on front-country public land is generally allowed in roadless areas. Motorized access is allowed on designated trails, and hunting and fishing are allowed. Camping, hiking, wood-cutting, climbing, geocaching, cycling … all are allowed in roadless areas using trails designated for particular activities.
Q: Why is the roadless backcountry important to sportsmen?
A: Easy. Roadless land offers the best habitat. Habitat translates directly into opportunity. The biggest bulls and bucks are harvested each year from roadless hunting units; the healthiest populations of wild and native fish swim in waters that begin or flow through roadless areas. Simply put, sporting opportunity in the backcountry is unparalleled, and available to everyone.
Q: Would the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act actually allow for development of roadless areas all over the country?
A: For the most part, yes. Some states, like Idaho, have roadless land management rules in place and would not be impacted by this bill. This bill is an attempt by Congress to circumvent an inclusive public process. Keep in mind, the 2001 Roadless Rule was implemented only after an exhaustive public input process–about 70 percent of the comments received during that process favored the protection of our country’s roadless backcountry.
Q: Why is keeping the roadless backcountry just like it is now important for hunters and anglers?
A: The reason hunting success in the backcountry is so much better than it is elsewhere is because of the backcountry’s intact habitat. This habitat is unmarred and largely left alone–game animals and wild fish are more plentiful. Additionally, these areas boast the longest hunting seasons, which gives sportsmen an opportunity to be more selective, and spend more time afield. Again, habitat and opportunity go hand in hand.
Q: Does this bill allow local people to have some input into how their public lands are managed?
A: No. In fact, this bill does just the opposite. For instance, the bill would release most of the country’s wilderness study areas without the benefit of local input. Granted, not all WSAs are worthy of wilderness designation, but shouldn’t that decision involve local stakeholders?
Q: Won’t this bill help the local economies by allowing industry access to the backcountry?
A: First, new roads, no matter who pays for them, will require maintenance. Our country’s current fiscal crisis doesn’t provide enough money to even approach the funding needed to maintain the existing road networks on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management property. Second, rural communities depend heavily on hunting and fishing for long-term, renewable economic growth. Hindering hunting and angling by allowing short– term industrial activity on land belonging to every American is unwise. Finally, only a small portion of our public lands qualify as roadless backcountry. The bulk of our public lands are open to industrial development and motorized use. Commerce and recreation would not be hindered by keeping the existing balance in place.
Q: Will states be allowed to decide which roadless areas will be released under this bill?
A: No. The bill would release 43 million acres of protected habitat and pave the way for significant new development.
Q: How can I get involved and help protect hunting and fishing access to the backcountry?
A: Write your state’s federal delegation, and if you’re not sure who to contact, visit house.gov, and enter your ZIP code in the “find your representative” section. Tell them that supporting this bill amounts to a willing degradation of the last, best places to fish and hunt in the United States. Tell them hunters and anglers have perhaps the most intimate connection with our public lands and that a top-down approach to managing them takes the power out of the hands of local citizens and local economies. Tell Congress to protect the balance that exists today on America’s public lands.