Obama Administration Takes Action to Safeguard Roadless Areas

Date: 6/15/2009

Earlier this spring, the Access Fund and its Outdoor Alliance partners urged the Secretary of Agriculture to take a “time out” on new developments in Roadless Areas until conflicting court rulings regarding their protection could be resolved. We are happy to report that on May 28, the Obama Administration agreed with this approach and deferred key backcountry management decisions to the Secretary of Agriculture, helping conserve important undeveloped Forest Service Roadless Areas valued for recreation.

In 2001, President Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in order to protect these habitats from development. Then in 2005, the Bush Administration sought to replace the rule with a discretionary state petition process. Today, conflicting and pending court decisions leave the status of the Roadless Rule uncertain. As a result, 58.5 million acres of inventoried Roadless Areas are at risk, which could make them ineligible from future protections.

The new “time out” directive means that a high-level review is now required for proposed backcountry developments until permanent rules for these areas’ management can be resolved.

This is directive has positive implications for the protection of several popular climbing areas that lie within inventoried Roadless Areas across the West, including: Cochise Stronghold/Dragoon Mountains in Arizona, Blodgett Canyon and Bitterroot Mountains in Montana and Greyrock's and Big Rock Candy Mountain in Colorado. It also bodes well for many climbing areas that face directly into Roadless Areas, such as The Needles in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.