The Wasatch Backcountry Alliance has heard from our great partners at Winter Wildlands about a new development happening in Utah that could have a major effect not only on our protected backcountry terrain here in the Wasatch but also on roadless lands in mountains all across Utah, and now is the time to speak up!
The Roadless Rule helps to protect backcountry areas on our national forests – like the Wasatch – from unnecessary road building, logging, and development. It’s intended to “provide lasting protection in the context of multiple-use management” for the 60 million acres of roadless areas on our National Forests and Grasslands. Extensive road building in conjunction with commercial timber is prohibited on these roadless areas, but they are still open for lots of different recreational activities, including backcountry skiing (and snowmobiling, hiking, climbing, mountain biking…). While these areas are protected from new development, the Roadless Rule is less restrictive than Wilderness areas in terms of what it does and does not allow.
The Roadless Rule is widely supported by the public. As with many environmental protections right now, however, it’s under attack. Earlier this year, Alaska lawmakers tried to get an exemption from the Roadless Rule included into the Congressional spending bill. But the public spoke up against this and lawmakers dropped the attack. Then, Alaska decided to ask the Department of Agriculture (which oversees the Forest Service) for an exemption to the Rule and permission to write an Alaska-specific Rule. Permission was granted to Alaska and now Utah is clamoring to be next in line.
Right now the state of Utah is hosting public meetings and gathering public comments to inform it’s petition to the Department of Agriculture. The State is proposing to do away with Roadless protections in many areas and scale back protections in others. They’re also open to the idea of keeping some areas protected as they are today. If Utah is allowed to move forward with writing its own version of the Roadless Rule it could open up a lot of backcountry ski zones (and other recreation areas) to unnecessary development. This rule-making process will also swallow up a ton of the Forest Service’s time trying to unnecessarily revise a Rule that works well and is popular with the public.
Unlike the Forest Service’s existing 371,000-mile road network, which has an estimated $3.2 billion maintenance backlog, the Roadless Rule is not in need of repair. We don’t need more roads in Utah’s backcountry when we can’t even maintain the ones we already have. Help get the message across to Governor Herbert – Utah should leave the Roadless Rule alone.
You can take action one of two ways (or both!)
- Attend the Salt Lake County Open House on October 23, 2018 | 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Salt Lake County Government Center, South Atrium 2001 South State Street, Salt Lake City, UT
- Click here or on the link below to send in a comment to the Governor’s Office: