What is a road?
The U.S. Forest Service defines a road as a vehicle route that is more than 50 inches wide, constructed and maintained on Forest Service land for full-sized vehicle use. In order for a route in a National Forest to be considered a road it must be recognized by the Forest Service in their designated road system. There are 2,356 miles of roads recognized by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in the White River National Forest (WRNF). Nationally, the USFS is responsible for the largest road network on Earth – 365,000 miles – but USFS can maintain only 20% of that inventory to appropriate standards, leaving a whopping $10 billion maintenance backlog for future generations to address.
What is a Roadless Area?
Roadless Areas are undeveloped areas in National Forests, which are without authorized Forest Service roads. Roadless Areas generally exceed 5,000 acres in size; however, if an area is without roads and less than 5,000 acres, it may be classified as a Roadless Area if it meets the following criteria:
- Manageable in a natural condition,
- A self-contained ecosystem, such as an island,
- Contiguous to existing or proposed Wilderness areas, primitive areas, or Roadless Areas in other Federal ownership, regardless of their size.
Certain Roadless Areas may have unauthorized, user-created “routes” within their boundaries, but this does not preclude them from qualifying for roadless status. The Forest Service has officially inventoried 84 Roadless Areas in the WRNF, which collectively cover 640,000 acres. Citizen groups have also inventoried additional lands that meet the USFS’s own roadless-area criteria, for a total of more than 1.1 million acres.
Why is Colorado considering developing roads in Roadless Areas?
The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was instituted in 2001, affording nationwide protection for U.S. Forest Service Inventoried Roadless Areas. This rule essentially prohibited construction of new roads on 58.5 million roadless acres across the nation, including 4.4 million acres in Colorado. When the Bush administration took office, the “Roadless Rule” was repealed, leaving Roadless Areas under new threat of development. In 2005, the Bush Administration initiated a state-by-state Roadless Area Review Process, whereby each state is tasked with reviewing its Roadless Areas and petitioning the administration regarding whether or not these areas should be managed as roadless. The Draft Colorado Roadless Rule, released on July 25, 2008, includes numerous loopholes for special interests to proceed with road building. Please Take Action today to protect Colorado’s roadless areas!
What uses are currently permitted in Roadless Areas?
Current permitted uses in Roadless Areas include:
- Horseback riding
- Cross-country/backcountry skiing
- Motorized trail vehicle travel (dirt bike, ATVs, snowmobiles)
- Mountain Biking
- Wildlife watching
- Management activities addressing forest health and wildfire concerns
What are the effects of road-building on undeveloped National Forest lands?
Road construction can increase the risk of erosion, landslides, and slope failure, endangering the health of watersheds that provide drinking water to local communities and critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Road construction allows entry of invasive plants and animals that can threaten the health of native species, increase human-caused wildfire, and disrupt sensitive wildlife habitat.
An extensive Roadless Area network on the western side of the White River National Forest is now being heavily targeted for oil and gas development, as the industry is now pursuing development in areas that were once considered economically unviable. According to the WRNF supervisor, “we are experiencing intensified energy exploration on the White River National Forest, a forest that has historically managed this use on a very small scale.” Oil and gas development customarily requires an extensive network of roads, pipelines and well pads that destroys Roadless Area values.
How do I write a letter to the Forest Service about the Draft Colorado Roadless Rule?
You can mail, email or fax your letter to the Forest Service by October 23, 2008 at:
Roadless Area Conservation—Colorado
P.O. Box 162909
Sacramento, CA 95816–2909
Please see Tips for Submitting Roadless Comments for more details.
What does “adopting” a Roadless Area mean?
Adopting a Roadless Area simply means visiting it (if you haven’t already), learning what’s special about it, filing a trip report, and most importantly, writing a letter to the Task Force advocating for its protection.
Adopting a Roadless Area is a way to get out in the backcountry and have fun, only with a purpose! For more information, see the Adopt a Roadless Area section.
How can I join the Roadless Campaign?