What’s at stake:
“Roadless” is, in some cases, a misnomer. In many places, our “roadless” public lands do indeed contain some roads.
It’s much better to equate the term “roadless” with “undeveloped.” Because while some of the best remaining swaths of our public lands have no roads, many others are modestly roaded. The key is that these roads do not support active development of the backcountry because there is little or no mining, logging, energy exploration or motorized recreation taking place near these roads. These undeveloped acres are best described as roadless because they comprise the intact habitat for fish and wildlife that counter-balances the lack of habitat found on developed, heavily-roaded acres in the front-country.
Protected by the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (which was recently upheld in the courts), this land, more than 50 million acres of backcountry, has been assessed and set aside as our inventoried roadless areas. These IRAs are chunks of land designated by federal land managers to remain as they are. While a roadless designation doesn’t always rule out new roads (this is decided in site-specific plans), the roadless designation makes it far more difficult to develop these wild areas.
Roadless areas are highly accessible to the public. In fact, almost 90 percent of roadless areas in the Forest Service system fall within two miles of an established route. They are not remote areas inaccessible to sportsmen.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of roadless lands have one thing in common: They all possess healthy, intact fish and game habitat. And, in the end, good habitat means great hunting and fishing opportunity.
For sportsmen, roadless areas provide some of the longest hunting seasons out there. And those hunts translate to dollars – dollars and jobs for small communities that depend on the revenue that hunting and fishing generates. In any given year, the sporting community contributes almost $77 billion dollars to the economy. And that contribution is sustainable – as long as the habitat is protected, which is why keeping roadless areas as they are is so important, not only from a recreation standpoint, but also from an economic one.
Absolutely. For example, legislation put forth by Congress seeks to open up backcountry areas to new roads and development. Proponents back the Ash Act (HR 1581/S 1087) under the guise that it will provide more access, but in the end, this legislation means less opportunity for sportsmen, and ultimately threatens the habitat and resources we all depend upon.
This is land that belongs to the public and serves the public at large. The backcountry generates recreation dollars small communities depend on, provides essential habitat for wildlife and produces clean, fresh water for urban areas downstream. It is in our best interest to leave many of these areas just as they are, roadless, unspoiled and undeveloped.