In his June 12 Close to Home piece about roadless areas in national forests, Steven Krichbaum selectively cited roadless-area acreage in several eastern states and then wondered why 2 percent of those areas remaining roadless would be such a big deal. Unfortunately, the roadless rule of 2001 was an all-or-nothing decision. The choice was 58.5 million acres remaining roadless or none, and 58.5 million acres is a big deal, just a little less acreage than Virginia and North Carolina combined. It's also a big deal in states such as Idaho, Alaska and Montana, already preponderantly government-owned, where much of the consequences would apply.
The Forest Service once made these decisions on an area-by-area basis. Those making the decision knew the on-site conditions and the consequences of trade-offs. The 2001 rule was cobbled together at Forest Service headquarters by a team with little knowledge of ground conditions. This lack of basic information resulted in no scientific validity or consideration of the economic consequences.
Contrary to Mr. Krichbaum's claims, the problem with the 2001 rule exists not because of this administration but because the rule was set aside by the court. A U.S. District Court in Wyoming said when it enjoined the rule: "The Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act. . . . The agency action was driven by political haste and evidenced pro forma compliance with [the National Environmental Policy Act]. . . . Designation of 58.5 million acres as 'roadless areas' was a thinly veiled attempt to designate 'wilderness areas' in violation of the clear and unambiguous process established by the Wilderness Act. . . . As a result, the Roadless Rule must be set aside."
National Association of
Forest Service Retirees