As Court Weighs Roadless Rule, TRCP Reasserts Value of Backcountry Lands
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Much of the reason sportsmen continue to experience high-quality hunting seasons year after year on public land is because of unroaded lands. Officially known as “inventoried roadless areas” by the U.S. Forest Service, these backcountry areas are defined as national forest lands that contain more than 5,000 contiguous acres without improved roads and are known by hunters and anglers to contain our best remaining fish and wildlife habitat. Roadless areas provide large blocks of exceptional habitat for big-game species such as mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. These areas also offer the least degraded streams and lakes where trout, salmon and other desirable fish species – dependent on clean water, stable streamflows and consistent lake storage – can thrive.
Roadless backcountry is found in 37 states and Puerto Rico and comprises 58.5 million acres, or 2 percent, of the 2.3 billion-acre land base of the United States.
While roads are important for providing sportsmen with access to the lands they use to hunt and fish, too many roads are associated with increased big-game vulnerability and fewer mature bucks and bulls, often resulting in shorter seasons and fewer available tags. Too many roads also can decrease the quality of important spawning habitat for trout, salmon and steelhead.
Most sportsmen and state fish and wildlife agencies agree that the important fish and wildlife habitat found on our national forest backcountry is worth conserving. In fact, more and more sportsmen businesses and organizations are "Banking on the Backcountry" in support of roadless conservation and the more than $190 billion generated from hunting and fishing annually. Roadless area management has remained unsettled for the past 30 years, however, and forces are constantly at work to fragment many of the remaining backcountry lands on which sportsmen depend – leaving an uncertain future for some of America’s best public land hunting and fishing.
* View a map of inventoried roadless areas across the nation.
* View state maps of inventoried roadless areas.
* Read a report about the economic values of inventoried roadless areas.
* Read the TRCP's report on roadless areas in Colorado.
* See who's Banking on the Backcountry.
The TRCP believes that proper management of roadless areas in our national forests can provide exceptional hunting and fishing opportunities for all Americans. By working with individual sportsmen, local groups and businesses, Western governors and national decision-makers, the TRCP is ensuring that our priorities are considered as the future management of our roadless areas is determined.
The TRCP's approach to backcountry conservation is guided by the Roadless Initiative Working Group, whose work is founded in the TRCP roadless initiative principles. By combining the expertise of the RIWG with an active network of sportsmen, TRCP staff can work with hunters and anglers throughout the West to conserve our outdoor traditions by supporting backcountry conservation.
If sportsmen want to sustain abundant fishing, strong economies, long hunting seasons and over-the-counter tags in the West, we must remain actively involved in the future management of our roadless backcountry.
The state of Colorado is in the process of developing a rule governing management of national forest roadless areas within its borders. Colorado's more than 4 million acres of roadless lands comprise some of the most important habitat in the Rocky Mountain West for big-game and native fish populations. With more elk and mule deer than any other state, few places offer hunting opportunities that compare to those found in Colorado.
In Colorado, revision of the state's roadless rule is currently underway. Unfortunately, the draft Colorado rule is rife with exceptions that could negatively affect prime backcountry habitat.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and the U.S. Forest Service must work with the sportsmen's community to resolve the many problems with the draft rule. By adding teeth to the Colorado roadless rule, we can uphold the values – tradition, economy, experience, trophies and habitat – that roadless areas sustain in the Centennial State.
Colorado's hunting and fishing traditions need your help. Join Hunters and Anglers for Responsible Development today and stay tuned for opportunities to get involved. Contact Nick Payne, TRCP field representative, for more information on the Colorado roadless rule.
Read Backcountry Bounty: Colorado to learn more about the Colorado roadless rule and how it could affect the state's world-renowned hunting and fishing.