USDA Releases Roadless Rule
WASHINGTON, May 5, 2005 -
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today
announced a final rule that invites input from state governors in the
conservation and management direction for inventoried roadless areas
within national forests. This rule will provide environmental benefits
and help to ensure that the needs of local communities are considered
in roadless area conservation.
"Our actions today advance President Bush's
commitment to cooperatively
conserve inventoried roadless areas within our national forests,"
Johanns said. " USDA is committed to working closely with the nation's
governors to meet the needs of our local communities while protecting
and restoring the health and natural beauty of our national forests."
The new rule was developed after the previous
January 12, 2001, was struck down by a U.S. District Court in July 2003
and deemed in violation of both the National Environmental Policy Act
and the Wilderness Act.
The rule sets a straightforward, collaborative
path toward conserving
inventoried roadless areas by working with the states on regulations
specific to the needs and requirements of each state. It incorporates
the department's five conservation principles for inventoried roadless
areas. They are:
The rule allows governors to petition the
secretary of agriculture to
develop regulations to manage roadless areas that meet the specific
needs within each state. USDA will accept state petitions from
governors for 18 months after the effective date of the final rule.
During the state-petitioning process, the Forest Service will continue
to maintain interim measures to conserve inventoried roadless areas.
Petitions must identify areas for inclusion and
may also include ways
to protect public health and safety, reduce wildfire risks to
communities and critical wildlife habitat, maintain critical
infrastructure (such as dams and utilities), and ensure that citizens
have access to private property.
Once a state has submitted its petition and the
secretary accepts it,
the Forest Service will work with the state to develop and publish a
subsequent state-specific rule that addresses the management
requirements set forth in the petition. The state-specific rulemaking
process will include any required National Environmental Policy Act
analysis and invite public input during a notice and comment period. If
a state chooses not to file a petition, inventoried roadless areas
within that state will continue to be managed in accordance with the
direction set forth in each national forest's land and resource
While 38 states and Puerto Rico have
inventoried roadless areas on
National Forest System lands within their boundaries, 56.6 million
acres, or 97 percent, of all inventoried roadless areas in the country
are contained within 12 states. Those states are Alaska, Arizona,
California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah,
Washington and Wyoming.
The department is also announcing the
establishment of a national
advisory committee to provide advice and recommendations to the
secretary on implementing this rule. Members of the committee will
represent diverse national organizations interested in the conservation
and management of National Forest System inventoried roadless areas.
The final rule and the notice announcing the
establishment of the
advisory committee will be published in the Federal Register this week
and are available at www.roadless.fs.fed.us.
- Make informed decisions to ensure that
inventoried roadless area
management is implemented with reliable information and accurate
mapping, including local expertise and experience.
- Work with states, tribes, local
communities and the public
through a process that is fair, open and responsive to local input and
- Protect forests to ensure that the
potential negative effects of
severe wildfire, insect and disease activity are addressed.
- Protect communities, homes and property
from the risk of severe
wildfire and other risks on adjacent federal lands.
- Ensure that states, tribes and private
citizens who own property within
inventoried roadless areas have access to their property as required by