Roadless areas important, and often misunderstood
The White River National Forest is committed to protecting and managing roadless areas as an important component of National Forest System lands. Roadless areas are valued for many benefits, including their fisheries and wildlife habitat, biological diversity and recreation opportunities.In 1972 the Forest Service initiated an inventory of National Forest System “roadless” areas known as the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation. The purpose of the inventory was to determine the suitability for some forest areas to be considered for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. These areas were natural in appearance and generally satisfied the definition of wilderness, land remaining in a basically wild and undisturbed condition, with few if any traces of human activities – they were termed Inventoried Roadless Areas. Although these areas were identified for their potential to become designated wilderness, not all ended up meeting all the criteria for wilderness. Nonetheless, these areas are recognized as important and are managed as roadless areas to protect their undeveloped characteristics.Generally, roadless areas are undeveloped portions of the forest greater than 5,000 acres in size. If less than 5,000 acres, they must either be a self-contained ecosystem, or next to a designated wilderness area and therefore contribute to a larger undeveloped area. Roadless areas are predominantly without roads; however, can contain motorized trails used by vehicles less than 50 inches in width, generally motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles.The White River National Forest identified 640,000 acres of inventoried roadless areas during the Forest Planning process. Within the inventory, there are 82,000 acres that are recommended as wilderness, and the remaining acres are managed for a variety of purposes such as emphasizing that area as critical wildlife habitat or an important recreation spot.The White River National Forest’s roadless inventory was developed in collaboration with the state of Colorado, Ute Nation, local governments, various groups and private citizens. These areas were confirmed in the 2002 Forest Plan and are the official inventory for roadless areas in the forest. The White River National Forest continues to manage for roadless as outlined in the Forest Plan and Forest Service interim directives.Although the Forest Service has been inventorying and managing for roadless areas since 1972, ambiguity and controversy over management of inventoried roadless areas led to the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule that established nationwide prohibitions generally limiting, with some exceptions, timber harvest, road construction and road reconstruction within these areas of the National Forest System.The rule was scheduled to take effect on March 12, 2001. Due to the level of controversy and court challenges, the secretary of agriculture extended the effective date until May of 2001 to permit the new administration to review the rule.In May of 2001, a preliminary injunction enjoining the Forest Service from implementing the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was enacted. In response to the various legalities and appeals that ensued, the chief of the Forest Service and secretary of agriculture issued interim direction for roadless management.In July of 2004, the administration released a rule allowing each state the option to petition the secretary of agriculture to determine roadless policies for their state.The governors may petition rules governing roadless areas and/or redefine the inventory. Once petitioned, the secretary will consider the petition. If accepted, each forest will be responsible for implementing changes, which may require additional analysis or amending our forest plan. Each state is taking a different approach. Colorado has chosen to create The Roadless Areas Review Task Force – a bipartisan 13-member group that will help determine the future of roadless areas in Colorado, including what uses, if any, will be allowed in the applicable forest areas. Based upon public comment, the task force will make recommendations to Gov. Owens regarding how national forest roadless areas should be managed. The governor will then submit a petition to the secretary of agriculture on behalf of the state of Colorado.There will be a meeting in Glenwood Springs on June 21, 2006, when you can meet with the Governor’s Roadless Task Force and express your concerns and desires for the future of roadless areas on the White River and Manti-La Sal National Forests.I encourage you to become involved in this public process. Maribeth Gustafson is the White River National Forest Supervisor.For more information on roadless areas, please visit:• The Roadless Area Task Force website at http://www.keystone.org/html/roadless_areas_task_force.html• The Forest Service roadless website at http://roadless.fs.fed.us• The White River National Forest site at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver
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