Sportsmen need roadless backcountry ... some just don't know it yet

As an organization that understands the connection between intact fish and game habitat and the ability to hunt and fish on public lands, we think it's important that the hunting and angling community understand why it's so important to keep our backcountry lands intact.

Here's what we know about the relationship between intact backcountry "roadless" landscapes and our opportunity to hunt and fish on land that belongs to every single American as a birthright.

  • Every year, more and larger bull elk and mule deer bucks are harvested in hunting units contained within roadless areas. In states that can boast lots of intact backcountry habitat, hunting seasons are longer, too.
  • The vast majority of the West's native cutthroat and bull trout populations are found in rivers and streams that flow from or through backcountry areas.
  • In Alaska and in the Lower 48, the best salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat is found within largely roadless watersheds.

We know this because we combed through the data available from state and federal agencies over the last decade--we've compiled the reports (see below) to prove it, using objective information gathered by independent agencies.

The facts are the facts. The roadless backcountry is vital to our country's fish and game. And it's important to the future of our sporting heritage. Simple as that.

To say otherwise is disingenuous... misleading. And while there are interests out there that would benefit from lax protection of our country's roadless lands, as sportsmen and women, we need to ask ourselves if a new network of unnecessary gas wells would be good for backcountry fishing and downstream water quality. We need to determine if a new coal mine and the industrial-grade haul road accompanying it would impact our favorite elk hunting unit.

These are the threats facing our backcountry today, and the only thing standing in their way is the 2001 Roadless Rule that protects some 58 million acres of untracked, untarnished lands that belong to all of us and can be accessed by every American willing to stretch his or her legs a bit. The validity of the rule will be determined by the Supreme Court in the near future. As anglers and hunters, this is an issue we cannot ignore—Mother Nature is not making more of these increasingly rare wild areas.  It is up to us—as hunters and anglers—to secure them.

For more information on the connection between the roadless backcountry and hunting and fishing opportunity, check out these reports:




said on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Hi Paul... I really appreciate your comment. Here's what changes in Colorado under its new "roadless rule":

Nothing. Essentially the rule keeps things just like they are now... protects the "status quo." If you could ride at ATV on a legal trail into a roadless area yesterday, you can ride the same trail today. The roadless rule simply protects what's already there, in terms of high-quality habitat and hunting and fishing resources.

The term "roadless" is a poor choice on the part of the Forest Service. I prefer "backcountry." It's more descriptive, gives folks an idea of what it is without having to point out that, indeed, there are roads in some inventoried roadless areas.

The roadless rule doesn't close any legal roads or trails. It doesn't prevent anyone from getting to their favorite place to hunt and/or fish by the same means they got there before. It simply keeps things like they are today--it protects the balance between the "frontcountry" and the "backcountry."

Hunting and fishing are still allowed. Hiking, camping, cycling and ATV riding on legal trails alre still allowed. What it does, though, is firmly define where the backcountry starts and helps keep it just like it is today, for the next generation of sportsmen. You probably would agree... the fishing and hunting are always better the farther you get from the road, right?

Hope that makes sense... and thanks for your comment!

-Chris Hunt


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