The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule was approved in January 2001 following years of scientific study, more than 600 public hearings across the country, and 1.6 million official public comments. The backcountry landscapes protected by the Roadless Rule are critical to wildlife, backcountry recreation, and downstream water quality. Ongoing legal battles continued to threatened the fate of the Roadless Rule, but in 2013 the last legal challenge was rejected. American Whitewater has consistently supported the protection of backcountry protected by the Roadless Rule. It is important to understand that the Roadless Rule does not lead to the closure of any existing roads. It will only prevent new roads from being built in the few remaining special places in our nation that currently do not have roads. Protecting backcountry from road building is critical to protecting the wild rivers that flow though them - and the unique experience of paddling them.
Roadless Areas provide highly valued paddling opportunities. Many are on the edge of Wilderness areas but still within easy striking distance of existing roads that provide convenient access. Others require a longer hike in offering opportunities for a unique challenge and solitude. By maintaining these areas in their Roadless condition we protect the quality of the recreational experience by preserving water quality, maintaining riparian buffers that are often characterized by old-growth forests, and maintaining a sense of solitude and adventure that can not be found in roaded areas. Some of the regions around the country that provide the most well-known whitewater runs in Roadless Areas include the following:
- Northeast: White Mountains of New Hampshire. Runs like Cascade Brook, NF Pemi, Glover Brook, and the Pemi are the core roadless opportunities in the Northeast.
- Midatlantic: West Virginia Highlands. The headwaters of the Cheat and Potomac rivers are the primary roadless padling opportunities. Runs like Tea Creek, Gandy Creek, Williams River, Seneca Creek, Red Creek, Shavers and Glady Forks of the Cheat, Cranberry River, and Red Run area all prime roadless runs.
- Southeast: Southern Appalachian Creekin. Runs like Snowbird Creek, Wilson Creek, the Gragg Prong, Bald River, the Big East Fork and West Forks of the Pigeon River, The Elk River, and the Upper Chattooga River are all Roadless. These represent some of the most cherished elusive paddling opportunities in the region.
- Midwest: Arkansas holds the grail of roadless runs for the midwest. The Left Hand Prong, Haw Creek, Mill Creek, Big Devil's Fork, Big Creek, and Marengo are all roadless to one degree or another.
- Western Classics: Almost too many classics to list. NF Clearwater, Salmon, and Lochsa River and tributaries (ID); Clarks Fork Yellowstone and Crandall Creek (WY); South Mineral Creek, Big South Fork of the Poudre, and Oh Be Joyful (CO); and Big Timber Creek (MT). These represent the pinnacles of adventure-based boating, and some of the most treasured whitewater runs in the US.
- Pacific Northwest: The Dark Divide is the largest roadless area in western Washington state, comprising approximately 76,000 acres in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Runs like McCoy Creek and Yellow Jacket Creek run through this area. In Oregon Quartzville Creek on the Willamette National Forest is one of the must-do, classic runs in the state.
- California: One of the most iconic runs in the country, Dry Meadow Creek is a classic run through Roadless Area. The Middle Fork Feather, a Wild and Scenic River, runs through Roadless Area along the Devils Canyon run. The Forks of the Kern also runs through Roadless.
In our advocacy work on Roadless Areas we focused on these central messages:
- Roadless Areas provide high quality recreational opportunities. Of the 192 million acres the Forest Service manages, 58.5 million is Roadless. Often located at lower elevations, Roadless Areas include scenic landscapes, ancient forests, and wild rivers that are enjoyed by the public.
- Roadless Areas provide a diverse array of recreational opportunities by millions of Americans and their families who hike, paddle, climb, mountain bike, ski and snow shoe.
- The wild quality of Roadless Areas and the superb scenic and recreational opportunities they provide significantly add to high quality of life for communities in proximity to Roadless Areas.
- Our National Forest road network already includes more than 386,000 miles of roads with only 21 percent of these roads meeting adequate road maintenance standards. With a maintenance backlog approaching $10 billion, the Forest Service needs to focus attention on management and maintenance of the existing road network, including retiring redundant, obsolete, or unnecessary roads.