January 12, 2009
Pew, Conservationists Call on President-elect Obama to Implement Roadless Rule
Rep. Grijalva, former Forest Chief Dombeck join in urging suspension of road-building in undeveloped forests
Contact: Elyssa Rosen, Pew Environment Group, 775-224-7497
Kevin Gaither-Banchoff, Executive Director, 520-326-4300
WASHINGTON—Public officials and conservation leaders today called on President-elect Barack Obama to take swift action to implement the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The landmark measure, which was issued eight years ago today, protects more than 58 million acres of undeveloped forestland in 38 states, including 1.1 million acres of intact forest lands in Arizona.
National Forest System (NFS) lands in Arizona contain more than 28,720 miles of roads, 6.53% of all NFS roads in the country, and more than enough miles of roads to reach around the circumference of the Earth. The Coconino National Forest alone, for example, is marred by nearly 6,000 miles of roads—enough to go from San Francisco to New York City and back.
“Congressman Grijalva is shouldering a tremendous responsibility in Congress—working to guarantee that beautiful and biologically rich areas in Arizona and around the country retain their outstanding wild character,” says Gaither-Banchoff. “Our roadless lands are the legacy of many great conservation advocates, including Aldo Leopold and Theodore Roosevelt. We hope the Obama Administration will help continue their important ecological legacy for future generations.”
Data from road studies done by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish shows that high road densities in national forests cause direct loss of habitat and reduction of available habitat for deer, elk, and other species; direct mortality of animals; increased noise and visual disturbance for deer, elk, and other species; and increased illegal killing of game species. In 2006, the Arizona Department of Game and Fish released the results of a statewide survey of active hunters that indicated that disruption caused by off-road vehicles (ORVs) traveling on national forests was among the top four “barriers to participating in hunting” in Arizona. In fact 54% of the respondents indicated that disruption caused by ORV use was a significant barrier to their participation in hunting (Arizona Department of Game and Fish, Wildlife News, January 2006).
Roadless lands on national forests draw millions of hunters, campers, fishermen, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts every year, fueling Arizona’s multi-million dollar tourism industry. Total annual expenditures for hunting and fishing in Arizona exceed $548 million, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, one of the many groups that have partnered with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition to raise public awareness about the value of roadless lands in the past.
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, former U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, the Pew Environment Group, The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups also asked the incoming Obama administration to suspend road-building, drilling and other industrial activity in national forests that would violate the rule until it can be fully implemented.