National Forest Stewardship
Our Forest Service platform focuses on protection of backcountry roadless areas, adressing the ongoing impacts of unmaintained roads, and the need for full public participation in the forest planning process. Forest Service lands across the nation provide accessible recreational opportunities to millions of Americans. Stewardship of these lands and the quality recreational experiences they provide is important to the human-powered outdoor recreation community.
Preserving our National Forest Backcountry
On National Forests, backcountry areas that are accessed by trail, not road, are called “roadless areas.” The Forest Service has inventoried some 58.5 million acres of backcountry roadless areas, mostly in the Rocky Mountains. It makes common sense to leave these areas as they are - as they always have been.
Undeveloped forests are where generations of Americans have enjoyed hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, climbing and other outdoor activities. These areas are also important sources of clean water for drinking, irrigation, fisheries and recreation. Scientists have demonstrated that these pristine areas provide important habitat for rare fish and wildlife and support an ecosystem that benefits everyone.
Since 2000, the Forest Service has had a policy against building new roads in backcountry roadless areas. The Forest Service already has a multi- million dollar maintenance backlog for its existing road network. It makes little sense to build more roads when the agency cannot afford to maintain the roads it already has.
Outdoor Alliance supports a common-sense policy of leaving roadless areas in a natural condition, in part because this fulfills the Forest Service mandate of multiple use of national forests.
Outdoor Alliance Fact Sheet on Recreation in Roadless Areas
National Forest Roads
Most people who enjoy national forests arrive by car and need a road to access public land. The current Forest Service road maintenance backlog threatens both our freedom to enjoy the national forest and the health of our forest and water.
Unmanaged roads are not only bumpy rides. They wash out and erode, polluting water, damage wildlife habitat and speed the spread of weeds. The current 380,000-mile Forest Service road network, an artifact of past land management strategies, needs a better, more modern balance.
The Forest Service has many miles of redundant, obsolete or unnecessary roads that are costly to maintain and do not serve the millions of people who visit national forests. Outdoor Alliance supports a common-sense policy, including retiring unnecessary roads to limit environmental damage and focusing scarce resources on maintaining the roads that best serve the public.
Currently, deferred maintenance is over $8.4 billion nationwide and increases annually as allocated funds fall far short of annual maintenance needs. This is intolerable, both for taxpayers and forest visitors.
A number of national forests have already set sound road maintenance priorities, but lack the funds to reach those goals. Recent budget requests have reduced deferred maintenance resulting in an ever increasing maintenance backlog. We can no longer afford to keep sweeping this problem under the rug -or the future costs will be much greater both in squandered tax dollars and the integrity of the forest resources we all go to enjoy.
National Forest Planning Rule
In September 2007, the Forest Service provided notice of a new National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule. Outdoor Alliance has been engaged in the process to develop a new approach to Forest Planning that currently relies on the outdated 1982 planning rule.
We support the basic framework of the new proposed rule, and the concept of “sustainable recreation.” We have requested that the USFS reintegrate several necessary elements of recreational management that were present in the 1982 Rule but absent from the current Draft Rule. We have requested that USFS overhaul the treatment of the role of science and the objection process, both of which seriously undermine the Draft Rule's ability to engender confidence in future planning efforts. Lastly we have requested that the USFS clarifies language regarding potential Wild and Scenic Rivers and the management of conservation and recreational species.
These changes to the Draft Rule will enhance the role that Forest Planning will play in meeting the goals of the America's Great Outdoors initiative and the Framework for Sustainable Recreation. Our changes are designed to restore the levels of fairness and analytical power Forest Planning that were present in the 1982 Rule, while recognizing and protecting the newframework proposed in the Draft Rule.
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