The US Forest Service is proposing a rule change that would permit roadbuilding anywhere on national forest land. It would force state governors to petition the Secretary of Agriculture on a case-by-case basis to prevent development in roadless areas. This rule would replace the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

The roadless rule was written during the Clinton administration, and put in place in January 2001. The rule was developed after 600 public meetings, and received 2.2 million supportive public comments. It protects 58.5 million roadless acres of national forest from development, and helps ensure clean water, wilderness recreation, and habitat protection.

The Bush administration has been chipping away at the roadless rule since it took office, failing to appeal adverse court decisions and exempting Alaska's vast Tongass and Chugach national forests from the rule's provisions as part of the settlement of a suit brought by the state's governor.

On June 28, the Forest Service published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would replace the Clinton-era rule with an "administrative process" whereby state governors could petition the Secretary of Agriculture to stop roadbuilding on national forests in their states. If the governors do not petition, decisions about roadbuilding would default to the Forest Service's forest management plans, most of which allow roadbuilding in roadless areas.

The petitions themselves would be answered by new rulemaking "on a state by state basis." The language of the proposed rule, however, leaves the final decision on these petitions in the hands of the Secretary of Agriculture. So even if a governor had petitioned to disallow roadbuilding on national forests in his or her state, the secretary could reject the petition and allow roadbuilding to go forward.
The effect of this proposed rule is to repeal the Roadless Area Conservation Rule entirely, and leave roadless areas with less protection than they had before the roadless rule was issued.


Write to Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey and tell him not to do away with the protections of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Ask the under secretary to withdraw the proposed rule changes. And ask him to enforce the Roadless Area Conservation Rule as the Bush administration has promised it would.

UPDATE 7/12/04:

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register in the week of July 12 and is available at


There is a 60-day public comment period. Mail comments to:

Content Analysis Team
ATTN: Roadless State Petitions
USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 221090
Salt Lake City, UT 84122
Fax: (801) 517-1014
E -mail: statepetitionroadless@fs.fed.us

Comments also may be submitted from: http://www.regulations.gov


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places