Vice President for Conservation
6/5/2002 -- Arlington, VA -- Trout Unlimited is applauding the introduction of bipartisan legislation that would protect approximately 58.5 million acres of unfragmented National Forests from new road construction, preserving some of the nation’s best remaining trout and salmon habitat.
The measure would make law the Roadless Area Conservation Rule unveiled by former Chief Mike Dombeck in 2001. The Bush Administration failed to defend the rule against lawsuits brought by the timber industry and others. In place of substantive protection of roadless areas, the Forest Service has issued a series of directives that significantly diminish or altogether eliminate roadless area protection. The roadless bill under consideration by the House of Representatives would implement the rule as it was written in 2001.
“Because of its great benefits to trout and salmon conservation, Trout Unlimited fully supports the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act and will work to ensure its passage,” said Steve Moyer, Vice President of Conservation Programs for the organization.
Moyer said that although they comprise only 2 percent of America’s land base, the importance of roadless areas to coldwater fisheries cannot be overstated. He noted that in the seven state Interior Columbia River Basin, 60% of the best remaining trout and salmon habitat is within roadless or low road density areas. In addition, 85 percent of the healthiest populations of all western cutthroat trout species occur in wilderness and roadless areas.
Of the species currently listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, approximately 25% of fish and wildlife are likely to have habitat within roadless areas, meaning that a quarter of our most at risk species are dependent upon 2 percent of the nation’s land base for their survival.
“TU also supports the legislation because of the existing, huge backlog faced by the Forest Service, more than $8.4 billion on the existing 386,000-mile forest road system,” said Chris Wood, Director of Public Lands and Watershed Programs for TU. “There is not a private landowner in the nation that would continue to build new roads in the face of such an astonishing backlog and liability,” said Wood. Many of these poorly maintained roads are harmful to trout and salmon habitat.
The protection of roadless areas is widely supported by the American public. The original rule received 1.6 million public comments and was crafted after more than 600 local public meetings were held, including at least two on every National Forest in the country. Approximately 95 percent of public comments received on the rule favored increased protection of roadless areas.
One hundred seventy-five members, spearheaded by Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), sponsored the legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, it would prohibit new road construction into existing roadless areas except in emergency situations such as fighting fires. Most forms of commercial timber harvest would also be prohibited except when such harvests enhance the ecological values of roadless areas. No existing access or rights of access to National Forests would be blocked, and no roads would be closed.
“This legislation recognizes that protecting roadless areas is critical to the fish and wildlife resources of the United States. We commend Representatives Boehlert and Inslee for their outstanding leadership on this important issue,” Wood said.
Trout Unlimited is the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization, dedicated to the protection and enhancement of trout and salmon rivers and streams and their watersheds. The organization has over 128,000 members in North America.
For more information: Chris Wood (703) 284-9403