Roadless Rule Editorial

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at
Fri Jul 9 18:03:58 EST 2004

July 8, 2004   Idaho Statesman

We shouldn't lock up public lands just to benefit a few

by Pat Barclay

Three times in three weeks, The Statesman printed articles about the
Outdoor Industry Association, manufacturers of outdoor equipment,
supporting the Clinton Roadless Rule.

This association wants to declare these areas off limits to anyone
except people who purchase their products — hiking boots,
camping gear, etc. Modifications proposed by the Bush administration
might "negatively impact our citizens' outdoor experience and
ultimately our industry's financial health," OIA said.

For perspective: Idaho has more than 4 million acres of existing
wilderness. If you lined them up, they would be two-thirds of the
length of a football field wide and stretch 6.4 times around the
In addition, Idaho has more than twice that number of acres in
"roadless" areas. So if you set out to hike through all these
"roadless" acres, you would have to walk around the world 13 times.

The Clinton proposal was controversial for two reasons: the definition
of "roads" and the lack of adequate information under the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The Clinton-era Forest Service defined a road as something on which
you could run a two-wheel drive sedan. Those who have traveled the
backcountry of Idaho know that many of these roads are used by
four-wheel drive vehicles and ATVs. These roads access favorite spots
to hunt, fish and watch wildlife for people of all ages and abilities.

Under NEPA, the agency is required to hold hearings to get input
before framing a set of alternatives. At the scoping meetings, people
were asked to make substantive comments on an alternative that was
already decided. However, the agency did not provide detailed maps of
the areas. It was difficult to provide substantive comment when given
a map that showed blobs with no detail. The Payette Forest provided a
more detailed map, which showed some roads. Other existing roads were
not shown or were marked as trails.

The original proposal aimed to protect "roadless" areas from road
construction and reconstruction, commercial and non-commercial
logging, mining, and off-road motorized recreation vehicles.
How can you have road reconstruction in an area with no roads?

The original proposal also banned the use of ATVs and snowmobiles. The
OIA now supports the use of ATVs in these areas. The Forest Service
has declared unmanaged motorized recreation as a major threat to
national forests. The chief told forests to force motorized users to
stick to roads and trails. So for ATVs to operate in these roadless
areas, roads or trails would need to be built or existing roads and
trails would need to be used. Once again we have "roadless" areas with
There are several lawsuits pending over some of these issues.

We sympathize with people's love of our forests. Recreation on public
land is a big part of our quality of life. Must we lock people out
because they do not have the time or physical conditioning to hike the
lands? During the 1980s debate over Idaho wilderness, studies showed
that only 6 percent of the people who used the national forests in
Idaho actually entered wilderness areas.

The OIA seems to make the assumption that everyone who buys its
members' products intends to use them in roadless areas. That's hard
to believe, since Nike and Adidas manufacture jogging and walking
shoes and hiking boots. And not every fishing pole is purchased by
someone who is planning a wilderness trip.
Having time to pursue recreation is part of our culture because people
earn enough to provide the basics and have some left to purchase the
products of OIA members. It's interesting to note, however, that many
outdoor companies have moved their manufacturing overseas. Now they
want to manage 9.2 million acres of national forest lands to benefit
some of their customers.

Does the $18 billion spent on their products include just the sales of
backpacking supplies or does it include running, walking and aerobic
Perhaps a focus on facts and balance would provide better management
of public lands than litigation and locking land away from some people
in favor of others.

Pat Barclay is the executive director of Idaho Council on Industry and
the Environment, a non-profit group that focuses on facts and science
on environmental issues.

Comment by poster: I don't exactly agree with this author's point of
view, particularly the bit about providing easy access to roadless
areas for people who "do not have the time or physical conditioning to
hike the lands". BULLPUCKY! If you want the real wilderness
experience, find the time and get in shape. Otherwise, stick to the
picnic areas and campgrounds.

The author DOES make some good points, though. The Roadless Rule was
hastily thrown together and only offered very, very, VERY little
additional protections over the old policy. However, the author does
not make any mention of the ecological values contained within many of
those roadless areas.

Personally, the Roadless Rule was/is a non-issue to me and was purely
a political ploy by Clinton's own "stealth tactics". Again, looking at
the big picture, many Roadless Areas have very little resources in
them to exploit. It makes no sense to go after such inaccessible stuff
by building more roads. Remember though, "Clinton's Folly" did NOT ban
logging or mining in designated Roadless Areas.

Larry,    helicopter logging monitor

More information about the Ag-forst mailing list