Road to nowhere
The U.S. Forest Service has always had “multiple uses” as the cornerstone of its policies. While more than half of the 191 million acres in the system is open to mining, drilling, logging and grazing, a large part is also preserved for more passive, recreational uses.
Ten years ago, the U.S. Forest Service passed the Roadless Rule of 2001, setting aside 58.5 million acres—30 percent of the national forests—as roadless areas preserved for hiking, biking, backpacking, fishing and hunting.
There were several reasons for doing so, including the fact that the USFS faced about $8.4 billion in deferred maintenance of the 348,000 miles of national-forest roads already in existence and lacked funding to take care of even more roads.
Another goal was to protect watersheds, because un-maintained dirt roads tend to erode, sending silt and other pollutants into downstream creeks and rivers. Half the water in the West has its source in the national forests.
The Roadless Rule represents a reasonable balance between active and passive uses, but now Republicans in the House, including local Congressmen Dan Lungren and Tom McClintock, want to pass a bill, House Resolution 1581, that would in effect overturn the Roadless Rule, allowing more roads to be cut into the forests.
The bill should be coming to the House floor soon. If you oppose it, let your representative know.