Archive for the ‘Roadless Area Conservation Rule’ Category

On October 1st, the Supreme Court reinstated the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, rejecting several challenges filed against it during the Bush Administration. The rule, more commonly known as the ‘roadless rule’, is a regulation set by Clinton in 2001, and was designed to protect 58.5 million acres of national forest from road development. Supporters of the rule claim roadless areas are critical to habitat conservation. Roads, traffic, and development in an area can contribute to habitat fragmentation, and put threatened or endangered species at further risk. Roads also increase erosion in riparian areas and watersheds, and can negatively impact aquatic species in areas near road construction.

Critics such as the U.S Forest Service point to increased fires in roadless areas as just one reason to reverse the rule. Without roads, firefighters can’t access sections of national forest to clear out beetle kill and dead vegetation,  both of which act as kindling during fire season. Increased road development would allow firefighters to better manage fire-prone areas. Critics also point to the restrictions the rule imposes on the logging and coal industries–logging and coal development cannot happen without roads.

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Honestly, I can appreciate both sides of this argument. On one hand, as a Colorado resident, I witnessed firsthand the devastation of this past fire season.  Over 100,000 acres burned, and more than 700 homes were lost, not to mention the impact the fires had on the state’s wildlife and ecosystems. I can’t help but wonder, if we had more roads leading firefighters into our national forests, would the fire season have been as bad as it was? On the other hand, as an environmentalist who values the protection of wildlife, I can easily understand the perspective of those proponing the rule. Threatened and endangered species are put at an even greater risk when roads are developed in their habitat, and for already struggling species road development  can severely hinder or even prevent their recovery. But, of course, what good is this protection if these habitats are destroyed by excessive fire?

One thing is certain: this situation is an excellent example of the struggle between society and nature.


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