Date of this Version
On January 5, 2001, after more than a year of public deliberations but only a few days before leaving office, the Clinton Administration issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule), placing one-third of all national forest lands off-limits to road construction. Opponents argue that this prohibitation creates "de facto" wilderness preserves, locking up the affected lands -- nearly 60 million acres lying almost entirely within 12 western states -- to mineral development, timber harvest, and other extractive industries.
The Roadless Rule is the subject of both ongoing litigation and reconsideration by the Bush Administration. Regardless of the outcome of these efforts, roadless area management will continue to pose compelling and contentious issues, just as it has throughout the past century. Roadless area conservation raises important policy issues about executive versus legislative power to manage federal public lands and resources, top down, centralized decision-making rather than site-specific planning and the legitimacy of broad-sweeping preservation initiatives on lands designated for multiple use and sustained yield. This chapter will explore the historic and legal framework governing roadless areas and wilderness in the national forests, along with the Roadless Rule's implications for public land management and national preservation objectives.