Background      The Roadless Rule, Colorado Roadless Petition & Obama Administration Proposed Rule      History of the Roadless Rule
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The Hunter-Independence roadless area in the White River National Forest.       Wilderness Workshop

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule
In the late 1970s, as development on National Forest lands was accelerating at an alarming rate, Congress directed the Forest Service to survey the lands it managed and evaluate them for wilderness character. As part of these evaluations (known as the "Roadless Area Review and Evaluation," or "RARE I" and "RARE II"), the Forest Service identified all areas of over 5,000 acres in size that remained free from roads. A small portion were recommended for — and obtained — congressional Wilderness designation. Plans for managing the remainder were, for the most part, left for local forest managers, industry, and conservationists to haggle over, area by area. Some of these areas were managed to protect their roadless values; on more than half of inventoried roadless areas, however, road building for commercial logging, energy exploration, and other destructive activities was allowed to proceed. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the inventory process.

In the late 1990s, the Clinton administration initiated a process that intended to resolve the continued controversy over how these areas should be managed. After the most extensive public process in the history of federal rulemaking — one that generated approximately 1.6 million comments (the most comments ever received on a proposed federal rule, and more than 90% of them in favor) — the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was published in January of 2001. The rule put a stop to almost all road building associated with commercial logging, and coal, gas, and other mineral leasing on almost 60 million acres of what remained of the most pristine areas in our National Forests. Click here for a legal summary of the Roadless Rule.

When the Bush administration came into office in January of 2001, it almost immediately suspended implementation of the  Roadless Rule. Over the subsequent two years, several lawsuits were filed, challenging the 2001 Roadless Rule. Two Federal court decisions overturned it, one of which was reversed on appeal. Then in late 2006, a court ruling reinstated the 2001 Rule. However, a decision on at least one lawsuit challenging the Rule is pending. In any case, there is a strong need to protect roadless areas, not only because of wildlife and other important values, but also because of a maintenance backlog of nearly $10 billion (1), which includes approximate $163 million in Colorado. This backlog consists of about 386,000 miles of roads (enough to encircle the earth 15 times), and many of these roads are in disrepair or slated for obliteration and rehabilitation.  



1  The Forest Service estimated this backlog as it formulated the roadless rule. Se 66 Fed Reg 3246, January 12, 2001.