TU Supports Roadless Area Moratorium, But Says Forests of the Pacific Northwest Should Be Included
2/11/1999 -- -- The nation's largest trout and salmon conservation group today applauded the start of an 18-month moratorium on road-building in roadless areas administered by the USDA Forest Service as a badly needed "time out" to reform the agency's road policies. The moratorium, announced today by Forest Service Chief Michael Dombeck, will stop entry of forest roads into many currently roadless areas for 18 months, while the Forest Service upgrades its roads policies.
"This is a positive step that is very much in sync with Mike Dombeck's strong emphasis on watershed health on our National Forests," said Charles Gauvin, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. "Roadless areas provide some of the best remaining habitats for trout and salmon across the nation, and deserve the strongest possible protection. Many forest roads are a real threat coldwater fisheries, and it's time to take a much closer look at those impacts."
Simply put, many roads in the national forests are killing trout and salmon. Excessive mud and soil carried in runoff from unimproved forest roads is among the worst sources of non-point pollution on federal lands. This silt smothers trout and salmon eggs and spawning areas and decreases stream productivity. Forest roads also speed runoff velocities, increasing streambank erosion and channelization of streams, and raising surface water temperatures, all of which are bad for trout and salmon. Unfortunately, because of recent revisions to forest plans, the new initiative would exempt National Forests on the west side of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, areas that are important for trout and salmon spawning and rearing in the region.
More than 100 stocks of trout and salmon have become extinct since the arrival of European settlers in the Pacific Northwest. The West now has 25 species of trout and salmon federally listed as threatened or endangered. Almost every species of native trout and salmon in the U.S. is threatened to some degree by forest roads. In the National Forests of the upper Midwest and in the Appalachian Mountains, trout and Atlantic salmon are threatened by new forest roads. With over 400,000 miles of roads in our national forests, and billions of dollars worth of maintenance and reconstruction backlogs documented, the direction of the new Forest Service road reform policy makes sense.
In the face of these facts, the Forest Service today is halting new road-building in many roadless areas. Future road reform steps will likely focus on fixing roads that need repairs, and fund substantial new efforts to put to bed, or obliterate, roads that are outdated and are causing considerable environmental destruction.
"Mike Dombeck and the Forest Service are taking a courageous step that will help protect and restore trout- and salmon-sustaining watersheds from Montana to North Carolina," said Gauvin. "The moratorium and the development of the new road policy has a lot to recommend it, and properly implemented will help eliminate one of the leading threats to fisheries on National Forests. For those very reasons, the policy should also apply to the national forests of the Pacific Northwest and the Tongass Forest in Alaska. Because of the crisis facing salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest, and because the Tongass represents one of North America's last best nurseries for salmon, there is every reason to include these National Forests in the initiative."
Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is the world's largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU's 100,000 members in 455 chapters nationwide are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds. Trout Unlimited is celebrating its 40th Anniversary Year in 1999.