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Protection for Idaho Roadless Areas Weakened

Posted: 10/17/2008
By: Kevin Colburn

On Thursday, October 16, 2008 the US Forest Service released the Idaho Roadless Rule, which provides management direction regarding road building and resource extraction across 9.3 million acres of public roadless lands in Idaho.  The Rule replaces the more protective 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule as it applied to Idaho’s roadless areas.


In response to thoughful critique, the final version of the Idaho Roadless Rule was made more protective than the previous draft circulated for public review in a number of ways.  Outdoor Alliance, representing millions of Americans that persue active backcountry recreation like hiking, mountain biking, climbing, backcountry skiing, and paddling was one of many groups that voiced concerns about the draft Idaho Rule and provided input as to how to improve it. The Agency addressed some of these concerns and notably improved the Rule in response to public comments.  Still, many problems remain with the Final Rule, which the agency acknowledges is not the environmentally preferable option. 


The Final Rule releases 405,000 roadless acres to general forest management (as opposed to over 600,000 in the draft) and releases at least another 5,312,000 acres to management that is less protective than the 2001 Rule, but more protective than the Draft Rule. As such, the new rule is expected to impact the wildlife populations, rushing rivers, and incredible recreation opportunities that make National Forests in Idaho true National treasures. 


Roadless areas are a finite resource of virtually infinite value.  As our nation’s headwaters, they provide clean and cold water to downstream communities.  They provide a haven and a source for robust populations of fish, wildlife, and plant species.  And to many Americans, these vestigal pocket of wild america are their backyard playgrounds – where they seek the many benefits of healthy outdoor recreation.  For these reasons, many communities, sportsmen, environmentalists, and outdoor recreationists strongly support protection of our nation’s remaining roadless areas.


Idaho’s roadless areas offer nationally significant recreational experiences.  These include climbing Borah Peak, biking the Idaho Centennial Trail, paddling the South Fork of the Salmon River, skiing Pilot and Freeman peaks, and hiking countless incomparable trails.     


We would like to thank all the paddlers, skiers, bikers, hikers, and climbers out there that sent comments on this issue - your comments made a difference - and we remain committed to protecting all of Idaho's remaining roadless lands. 


Read the new Idaho Roadless Rule


Read Outdoor Alliance’s Comments on the Draft Rule


Learn more about Outdoor Alliance


Download a Google Earth Layer of roadless lands in the Northern Rockies.

Watch a video of outdoor recreation on roadless lands: 





Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

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