Roadless Area Conservation Proposal Questions and Answers

The following are questions and answers regarding the Roadless Area Conservation Proposed Rule. For detailed information, please refer to the Proposed Rule, the Summary of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or the complete Draft Environmental Impact Statement. These documents may be reviewed on the Roadless Project website at http://www.roadless.fs.fed.us  local Forest Service offices, and major municipal and county libraries. A complete listing of libraries with these documents is available on the website. To receive a copy of the documents, please send a telefax to (800) 777-5805; or write to Rocky Mountain Research Station; Publications Distribution; 240 West Prospect Road; Fort Collins, Colorado, 80526-2098.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON ROADLESS AREAS

Inventoried roadless areas are public lands typically exceeding 5,000 acres that met the minimum criteria for wilderness consideration under the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Forest Service used the most recent inventory available for each national forest and grassland to identify the inventoried roadless areas addressed by this proposal. Roadless areas affected by this proposal were identified and inventoried in the land and resource management plans, other assessments, and, in those limited circumstances where a more recent inventory was not available, the 1979 Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II). Maps of all the roadless areas are available at http://www.roadless.fs.fed.us  on the Roadless Project website and in Volume 2 of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Top

What is an unroaded portion of an inventoried roadless area?

Some roads were built in inventoried roadless areas after they were inventoried. The areas where these roads were built are considered “roaded” portions of inventoried roadless areas. All other portions of inventoried roadless areas are considered “unroaded” portions. Top

What is an “other unroaded area”?

Other unroaded areas are areas other than inventoried roadless areas that do not have classified roads and are of a sufficient size, shape, and position in the landscape to reasonably achieve the long-term conservation of roadless characteristics. Although some people suggested minimum size criteria such as 300, 500, and 1000 acres, the Forest Service proposes that evaluating roadless area characteristics and determining the size and shape of unroaded areas during forest planning would lead to more effective evaluation and conservation of roadless area characteristics. Top

What is the roadless area issue about?

The proposed rule addresses the appropriate level of protection, management, and use of inventoried roadless areas and other unroaded areas. For more than 25 years, local decisions about roadless areas and other unroaded areas have been hotly contested — especially when the decisions dealt with road building, timber harvest, or other activities that alter an area’s intrinsic roadless characteristics. On many national forests and grasslands, roadless area management was the single biggest point of conflict in the adoption of land and resource management plans, often resulting in costly analysis, appeals, litigation, and public protest. Top

What is President Clinton’s role in the Roadless Area Conservation Initiative?

In 1998, the Forest Service began to nationally address the issues of road management and the impact of road construction on roadless areas. The Forest Service issued an 18-month suspension prohibiting interim road construction in most roadless areas. On October 13, 1999, President Clinton directed the Forest Service to begin an open and public dialogue to develop regulations designed to conserve roadless areas located on National Forest System lands. Top

Why is the Forest Service undertaking this initiative now?

The Forest Service is undertaking this initiative for several reasons:

Because of the rapid loss of open space on private lands across the country, conserving the remaining roadless areas is important for future generations.

Road construction and other activities on public lands can compromise the significant social and ecological values of remaining roadless areas.

With an estimated 8.4 billion dollar backlog of road maintenance and reconstruction on the current 380,000-mile road system on National Forest System lands, public investment should focus on maintaining the current transportation system rather than building costly new roads into roadless areas.

Activities in roadless areas that alter roadless characteristics create public controversy, appeals, and lawsuits. Top

PROPOSAL AND ALTERNATIVES

What is the Forest Service proposed action?

The Forest Service proposed action contains three elements:

  1. Prohibition on Road Building

    The proposed rule would generally prohibit new road construction or reconstruction in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas on National Forest System lands.
     

  2. Procedures

    In addition to the prohibitions on new road building and reconstruction in unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas, the proposal would also establish procedures for use during the forest plan revision process requiring local managers to:

     

    1. Evaluate the quality and importance of roadless characteristics.
       

    2. Determine whether and how to protect roadless characteristics in the context of multiple-use objectives.
       

    Local managers would use the procedures and further public involvement as part of the forest plan revision process to make future decisions about what activities, such as recreation, timber harvest, and grazing would be appropriate in inventoried roadless and other unroaded areas.
     

  3. Tongass National Forest  -- A decision on whether to prohibit new road construction in inventoried roadless areas on the Tongass National Forest would be postponed until the 5-year forest plan review scheduled for April 2004. If it were determined that inventoried roadless areas on the Tongass merit protection by applying the road building prohibition, a forest plan amendment or revision would be initiated with full public involvement. Top

What are the alternatives in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement?

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement describes three groups of alternatives — prohibitions, procedures, and Tongass alternatives. There are four alternatives in each group. The prohibition alternatives identify activities that would not be allowed in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas. The procedural alternatives require local managers to evaluate roadless area characteristics and decide whether and how to protect them in the context of multiple-use objectives. The Tongass alternatives provide special direction for the Tongass National Forest. Each of the three sets of alternatives includes a no action alternative that does not change existing Forest Service direction and is useful in comparing the other alternatives against an existing baseline. The agency may elect to combine portions of the three sets of alternatives in the final rule. Top

Why is the Tongass National Forest treated differently?

The Tongass is treated differently for four reasons:

  1. Under current circumstances, use of the Tongass National Forest’s inventoried roadless areas for timber production contributes to the Forest Service’s effort to seek to meet (within the meaning of Section 101 of the Tongass Timber Reform Act) market demand for timber in the Tongass National Forest, consistent with providing for the multiple-use and sustained yield of all renewable forest resources.
     

  2. Due to a recent decision for the Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, a significant portion of the Tongass now has land use designations that prohibit or limit road construction and reconstruction.
     

  3. About two-thirds of the total timber harvest planned on the Tongass over the next 5 years is projected to come from inventoried roadless areas. If road construction were prohibited in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas, approximately 95 percent of the timber harvest in those areas would be eliminated.
     

  4. The economy of Southeast Alaska is in transition from dependence on long-term Forest Service timber sale contracts to competitively bid timber sales. Top

How did the Forest Service determine what activities to include under the prohibition and procedural alternatives?

In the prohibition alternatives, the Forest Service proposes to prohibit those activities that pose the most significant national threat to inventoried roadless areas. Data must be available to adequately analyze, from the national level, potential effects of any agency proposal. Road construction and timber harvest met these criteria and are included in the prohibition alternatives. The Forest Service proposes that decisions for other activities would most appropriately be made at the local level through the procedures. Top

How does prohibition of timber harvest except for stewardship purposes under Alternative 3 differ from prohibition of all timber harvest under Alternative 4?

Alternative 3 would permit cutting of trees, but only for those timber harvest activities specifically designed to meet stewardship objectives, such as reduction of excessive forest fuels through thinning; creating desired wildlife habitat conditions; or improving the vigor of residual trees to withstand insects, disease, and wind. Trees harvested under Alternative 3 could be removed from the site and sold, so long as the primary purpose of the timber sale was stewardship oriented.

Alternative 4 prohibits all tree cutting, for any purpose except personal use activities such as firewood gathering and Christmas tree cutting, and for activities such as trail construction or maintenance. Alternative 4 would permit manipulation of vegetation to meet stewardship objectives by methods not requiring tree cutting, such as through use of prescribed fire. Top

Why do the prohibitions only apply to the inventoried roadless areas and not to the other unroaded areas?

While the Forest Service has mapped the inventoried roadless areas, other unroaded areas are not yet identified. Under the proposed rule, the Forest Service would identify, evaluate, and determine whether and how to conserve other unroaded areas during future forest planning. Top

How does the preferred alternative address off-highway vehicle use?

Use and management of off-highway vehicles is highly variable throughout the country and dependent on distinct social and environmental conditions. Under the procedures of the proposed rule, off-highway vehicle use would be addressed through future local planning processes.Top

ROADLESS VALUES

Why are roadless areas so important?


Inventoried roadless areas comprise over 54 million acres, or 28 percent of National Forest System lands. Areas without roads have inherent values and characteristics that are becoming scarce in an increasingly developed landscape. While National Forest System inventoried roadless areas represent only about 2 percent of the total land base of the United States, they provide significant opportunities for dispersed recreation, clean, clear sources of public drinking water, and large undisturbed landscapes that provide privacy and seclusion. In addition, these areas serve as bulwarks against the spread of invasive species and often provide important habitat for rare plant and animal species, support the diversity of native species, and provide opportunities for monitoring and research. Top

What environmental and other problems does building roads cause?

Improperly constructed roads and poor road maintenance can increase the risk of erosion, landslides, and slope failure — endangering the health of watersheds that provide drinking water to millions of Americans and critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Although today's standards are more environmentally sensitive, much of the Forest Service's road system was constructed using less environmentally sensitive standards. Growing scientific information demonstrates that road construction and other activities in sensitive areas can allow the entry of invasive plants and animals that threaten the health of native species, increase human-caused fire, disrupt habitat connectivity, and compromise other social and ecological values.

The agency and the public have questioned the economics of building new roads in roadless areas when the agency already has a 386,000-mile road system and an 8.4 billion dollar backlog of deferred maintenance and reconstruction. This backlog is growing while annual budget allocations average less than 20 percent of the funding needed for maintenance. Meanwhile, existing roads are continuing to deteriorate making passenger car travel more difficult and contributing to adverse watershed and wildlife conditions. Top

What are some of the potential benefits of the proposed rule?

Potential benefits of the proposed rule include:

  • Air and water quality maintained at higher levels in inventoried roadless and unroaded areas.
     

  • Larger land base for dispersed recreation activities in remote settings in inventoried roadless and unroaded areas.
     

  • Quality of fishing and hunting maintained at higher levels in inventoried roadless and unroaded areas.
     

  • Spread of invasive species minimized.
     

  • Knowing roadless areas exist and will exist for future generations.
     

  • Increased protection of biological diversity and threatened and endangered species.
     

  • Local appeals and litigation about some management activities in roadless areas could be reduced, which would avoid future costs.
     

  • Agency cost savings of up to $565,000 per year from reduced road maintenance costs (estimate based on previous expenditures). Top

Why are inventoried roadless areas important for conserving biodiversity at lower elevations?

Low elevation habitats are typically more biologically productive and contain a greater diversity of plants and animals than high elevation habitats. Inventoried roadless areas contain more habitats at lower elevations than other areas protected from roading. Historically, low elevation habitats were the first to be developed. Most areas in the national forests protected from roading occur at high elevations. Top

Would the prohibition on road building in inventoried roadless areas help maintain the conservation of biological diversity?

Yes. Inventoried roadless areas contain a great diversity of habitats not found in other lands protected from roading. Habitats in inventoried roadless areas occur across a broader range of elevations, types, and sizes than those found in other lands protected from roading. Animals preferring large, undisturbed areas (such as grizzlies, wolves, lynx, and elk) would greatly benefit from the prohibitions. Numerous plants and animals needing special habitats that are distributed in small areas over the landscape would also benefit from the prohibitions. Recovery potential for more than 200 threatened, endangered, and species proposed for listing would improve. Top

What role do roadless areas play in providing clean drinking water for the public?

There are over 2,000 major watersheds throughout the nation. More than 350 of these contain National Forest System inventoried roadless areas that contribute to public drinking water sources. The clean, cool water these areas provide to downstream users is particularly important in the West, where national forests often comprise large portions of important watersheds that attract a growing population seeking a clean, safe, natural environment. Road construction, reconstruction, and use in these watersheds pose a risk of increased sediments, nutrients, petroleum products, and other contaminants. Top

Would roadless areas help maintain air quality?

The Forest Service has a key role in maintaining and improving air quality; particularly in the nation’s 164 Class I air quality areas. Road construction, reconstruction, and use contribute dust and other particulate material into the air, which can effect human health and reduce visibility in some of our most scenic landscapes. Keeping roads out of roadless areas would help maintain and improve air quality in these important areas. The proposed action would also have little effect on air quality from smoke either from prescribed fire or wildfire. Top

ACCESS AND RECREATION

Does the proposal ban off-road vehicles from roadless areas?

No. Off-road vehicle use is not prohibited under the proposed rule. Under the procedures of the proposed rule, off-highway vehicle use would be addressed through future local planning processes. Top

How does the proposed rule affect current access to our national forests and grasslands?

The proposed rule does not change current access and no roads or trails would be closed by this rule. Top

How would the proposed rule affect recreational activities?

Existing access to inventoried roadless areas for recreation opportunities would not change because of this proposal. New roads would not be built in inventoried roadless areas for recreational activities that require roads. Other types of recreation activities, such as off-road vehicle use and snowmobiling would continue in inventoried roadless areas if the land and resource management plan allows them today. Overall, decisions about recreational activities (other than those that depend on road construction and reconstruction) on National Forest System lands would continue to be made at the local level with full public participation. Top

Would the proposed rule affect legal rights of access?

No. All alternatives specifically state that people would continue to have the access that is granted by statute, treaty, or reserved or outstanding rights. Top

Would the proposed rule stop the Forest Service from maintaining existing roads in inventoried roadless areas?

No. Existing roads in inventoried roadless areas could be maintained under the proposed rule. In addition, where existing roads are causing irreparable resource damage, and the road is essential for public or private access or area management, the road could be realigned to mitigate environmental impacts. Top

Would this process add to the National Wilderness Preservation System?

No. The proposed rule would not designate, identify, or recommend any additional areas for Congressional designation as Wilderness. The process for identifying and recommending wilderness would continue through the forest planning process; wilderness designation would continue to require an act of Congress. Top

What is the projected rate of road construction or reconstruction in inventoried roadless areas?

The Forest Service estimates that over the next 5 years, under current forest plan direction, approximately 1,444 miles of roads would be constructed or reconstructed in inventoried roadless areas. At this rate, over the next 20 years, roads would be constructed in about 5 to 10 percent (3 to 6 million acres) of the inventoried roadless areas. Most new road construction would support timber harvest, mining, and special uses.Top

TIMBER AND OTHER USES

How would the proposed rule affect timber harvest?

Under the proposed rule, timber harvest could occur in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas if road construction or reconstruction were not needed. Of the 16.5 billion board feet of timber planned for sale from all National Forest System lands during Fiscal Years 2000 to 2004, about 1.1 billion board feet, or 6.5 percent, would come from inventoried roadless areas. The proposed rule is estimated to reduce the timber offer level from inventoried roadless areas by approximately 0.3 billion board feet, or 2 percent of all National Forest System timber offered for sale. Top

How would the proposed rule affect the ability to salvage timber?

As long as no new roads are built or reconstructed in inventoried roadless areas, salvage volume could continue to be removed consistent with forest plan direction. Any proposed salvage would require a site-specific analysis and decision made in collaboration with the public. Top

How would the proposed rule affect payments to States, communities, and directly associated timber jobs?

At the national level, the proposed rule would have only minor impacts on timber harvest, associated payments to States, and jobs directly related to timber harvest. However, in the small number of national forests where significant timber harvest is planned in inventoried roadless areas, the rule would have greater impacts on payments to States, communities, and jobs. The combined effects of the proposed rule would decrease payments to States nationally by about 1.4 percent annually. Payments to States would decrease slightly in some areas under the proposed rule, mostly because of a decrease in timber revenue. The Forest Service understands that these funds are important to communities that have strong affiliations with natural resources and is presently working with Congress to provide a permanent, mandatory payment to States based on the higher timber harvest levels of the past 15 years. It is estimated that the proposed rule would affect approximately 250 jobs nationally that are directly associated with timber harvests. Top

How does the proposed rule affect currently approved uses and activities?

If the proposed rule were adopted, it would apply to future actions and not affect currently approved activities. This provision was included to avoid disruption and confusion among Forest Service officials and the public. Any project or activity decision signed before the effective date of the final rule would be allowed, but not required, to proceed. Top

How would the proposed rule affect mineral operations?

The proposed rule does not affect locatable minerals (metallic and non-metallic minerals on public land) such as gold, silver, copper, gypsum, and barite. Although quantifiable estimates are unavailable, a prohibition on road construction and reconstruction in unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas could restrict opportunities for exploration and development of undiscovered, leasable mineral resources (oil, gas, coal, and geothermal) in some areas. Similarly, some access to saleable minerals (sand, gravel, stone, and pumice) in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas may be affected. Top

FOREST HEALTH AND FIRE

Would fire suppression activities be affected by the proposed rule?

No. The Forest Service’s fire suppression organization is staffed to attack wildland fires in roadless areas using fire crews delivered by either helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. In the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas, the Forest Service presently controls an estimated 98 percent of all wildland fires while the fires are still considered small. The proposed rule would allow road construction if a wildland fire threatened public health and safety. The proposed rule may lower the probability of human-caused fires when compared to the no action alternative.Top

Are inventoried roadless areas more likely to have large wildfires than areas that have roads?

Areas that are more densely roaded have a higher potential for catastrophic wildfires than inventoried roadless areas. The fire occurrence data from the environmental analysis reveals the following:

  • Nationally, the average size of a large wildfire is greater on National Forest System lands outside of inventoried roadless areas.
     

  • Nationally, the average size of a large wildland fire started by humans is greater on lands outside inventoried roadless areas.
     

  • Regardless of the cause, wildland fire is nearly twice as likely to occur outside of inventoried roadless areas.
     

  • A human-ignited wildland fire is nearly four times as likely to occur outside inventoried roadless areas. Top

Would forest health (fuels management, insects, and diseases) be affected by the proposed rule?

Millions of acres of National Forest System land with roads, where the cost of treatment would generally be less, need forest health treatments. It is unlikely that the proposed rule would affect the Forest Service’s overall ability to treat National Forest System lands for forest health purposes. Although forest health treatments that require construction of new roads in inventoried roadless areas would not be possible, treating remote, unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas to improve forest health is usually a lower priority than treating areas closer to people, private property, and facilities where there typically are roads. Top

Would the proposed rule affect the Forest Service’s ability to manage habitat for early successional species?

Prohibiting road construction and reconstruction in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas would not eliminate the Forest Service’s ability to create or maintain early successional habitat used by species such as the bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, yellow-winged warbler, or deer. Many wildlife habitat improvement practices such as vegetation management, prescribed fires, and small diameter tree thinning can be implemented without new roads. Top

ANALYSIS AND DECISION MAKING PROCESS

Why did the Forest Service use a rulemaking procedure?

On October 13,1999, President Clinton directed the Forest Service to begin an open and public dialogue to develop regulations about the future of roadless areas located on National Forest System lands. The administrative rulemaking procedure is an open, public process. Top

How is rulemaking different from the Forest Service’s usual decision-making process under the National Environmental Policy Act?

Rulemaking is subject to public comment and response by the agency just as is required for any analyses developed under the National Environmental Policy Act. A proposed rule is published in the Federal Register and made available for public comment, after which a final rule is developed that responds to comment and explains how public comment was used in developing the final rule.

Where environmental effects from a proposed rule are a concern, the environmental analysis and disclosure procedures for the National Environmental Policy Act may be integrated with the rulemaking. To ensure that environmental analysis is integrated with this rulemaking process, the Forest Service chose to incorporate the National Environmental Policy Act process and disclosures in this rulemaking. A draft environmental impact statement accompanies the proposed rule to disclose environmental, social, and economic information and facilitate understanding and comment about the proposed rule. A final environmental impact statement will accompany the final rule. Top

Does the Forest Service have the legal authority to take these actions?

Yes, this proposal is within the scope of the Secretary of Agriculture’s authority, as granted by the Organic Administration Act of 1897; the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act of 1960; the National Forest Roads and Trails Act of 1964; the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resource Planning Act of 1974, as amended; and the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978. Top

Would this rulemaking require a new national inventory of roadless areas?

No. The inventoried roadless areas affected by this rule were already inventoried through the Roadless Area Reviews and Evaluations, subsequent landscape-level assessments, and local forest planning processes. The roadless area values and characteristics of other unroaded areas would be identified and evaluated in local forest planning efforts based on size, shape, position, and manageability. Top

How does the proposed rule relate to other Forest Service initiatives?

The Forest Service’s proposed Land and Resource Management Planning Rule, proposed National Forest System Road Management Rule and Policy, and proposed Roadless Area Conservation Rule are three separate policies that form a comprehensive strategy for ensuring the health of National Forest System lands while meeting the needs of the American people. The proposed Land and Resource Management Planning Rule would revise the framework for planning and management of National Forest System lands; and would reaffirm sustainability as a foundation of national forest stewardship, further integrate science into the process, and ensure greater collaboration with people.

The proposed National Forest System Road Management Rule and Policy would apply to the existing road system on National Forest System lands. It would revise regulations concerning the development, use, maintenance, and funding of the road system by shifting the emphasis from building new roads to making the existing road system safe, responsive to public needs, environmentally sound, and affordable to manage.

This proposed Roadless Area Conservation Rule would apply to the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas and other unroaded areas located on National Forest System lands. It would prohibit road construction and reconstruction in most inventoried roadless areas, require evaluation of the quality and importance of roadless area characteristics, and determine whether and how the characteristics should be conserved during forest plan revision in the context of overall multiple-use objectives. It would also postpone a decision regarding protection of the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas located on the Tongass National Forest until April 2004. That decision would be subject to legislation uniquely applicable to the Tongass National Forest. Top

How would local forest managers identify unroaded lands under the proposed rule?

During forest plan revision, forest managers would identify unroaded areas of a sufficient size, shape, and position in the landscape to reasonably achieve the long-term conservation of roadless characteristics. These may include areas with important corridors for wildlife movement; or areas that share a long, common boundary with an inventoried roadless area, a component of the National Wild and Scenic River System, or with unroaded areas of 5,000 acres or more on lands administered by Federal agencies. The responsible official would consider the distance from, and the scarcity of, other unroaded areas, particularly for those national forests and grasslands east of the 100th meridian. Top

How would this rulemaking affect national forests and grasslands already in the forest plan revision process?

Thirty-six national forests and grasslands are currently revising their land and resource management plans. None of these plans are expected to be adopted before promulgation of a final rule, although some may publish drafts later this year. As part of the revision of these plans, the Forest Service would evaluate roadless area characteristics and determine how best to conserve them within overall multiple-use objectives. Completion of this rule is not expected to cause delays in ongoing revision processes. Top

How would the proposed rule affect current implementation of existing and revised forest plans?

The proposed rule would limit the discretion to build roads in inventoried roadless areas. It would not affect current forest plan direction for other management activities. Nor would it modify any existing permit, contract, or other legal instrument. It would not require amendment or revision of any land and resource management plan, nor would it suspend or modify any decision made before the effective date of the final rule. However, if the responsible official determines that the objectives of the plan could not be met under the proposed rule, a forest plan amendment or revision could be initiated including full opportunity for public involvement. Top

How was science used to develop this proposal?

The interdisciplinary team analyzed the available scientific literature about the benefits of roadless areas and the effects of various land management activities on roadless area lands and resources. Their review included the findings from recent studies such as the assessments for the Southern Appalachian, the Interior Columbia River Basin, the Sierra Nevada Range, and the report of the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team. Additionally, specific data on the proposal and its alternatives was gathered from individual national forests and grasslands and other appropriate sources. A team of geographic information system specialists and data management specialists used state-of-the-art methodologies to assemble and display this information. The interdisciplinary team used the compiled data in combination with scientific literature to determine effects of the proposal and alternatives. The interdisciplinary team’s findings are disclosed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.Top

PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES

How has the Forest Service used public comments already received?

The Forest Service received a very large public response to its initial notice regarding roadless area conservation. On October 19, 1999, the agency published a Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement and initiate a rulemaking to address future management and conservation of roadless areas located on National Forest System lands. The initial public comment period was designed to collect comment from the public about issues and concerns that should be addressed in an environmental analysis. It included 10 regional and national public meetings and 127 meetings hosted by national forest and grasslands across the country — more than 180 meetings total. A total of about 16,000 people attended those meetings. The Forest Service also received about 365,000 written responses to its notice. These responses included a variety of suggestions for alternatives, including different combinations of prohibitions, procedures, and exemptions. A summary of public comments received is available on the Internet at http://www.roadless.fs.fed.us the Roadless Area Conservation Project website. The preamble to the proposed rule and Chapter 1 of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement discuss how public comments were used.

The Forest Service summarized the range of issues raised into six broad categories:

  1. Public Access in Inventoried Areas — Some people were concerned that their access for recreation and other activities might be limited by the proposal. Others assert that certain access should be limited.
     

  2. Identification of Other Unroaded Areas — Some people asked for protection of all unroaded areas of a certain acreage size, while others requested such decisions be addressed through local planning. 

  3. Exemptions for Specific Areas or Activities.
     

  4. Environmental Effects — Some people asked the Forest Service to protect watersheds and habitat for threatened and endangered species, maintain wildlife habitat, and reduce the risk of invasive species.
     

  5. Local Involvement During Decision-Making — Some people expressed concerns that the proposed rule would limit their involvement in local planning efforts. Others said the decision on roadless areas could not be solved locally and should be made nationally.
     

  6. Effects on communities with strong natural resource affiliations such as timber harvest or commodities. Top

How many people commented for or against the roadless proposal?

The public comment process for rulemaking is not a voting procedure. The content of the comments is what matters and ensures that the agency considers all important issues and alternatives in its analysis.Top

Where is more information about the proposed rule found?

Additional information about the proposed rule may be obtained from several sources:

  • Visit the Roadless Project’s http://www.roadless.fs.fed.us website to view the Proposed Rule, Summary of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and the full Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
     

  • Review printed copies of the Proposed Rule and Draft Environmental Impact Statement at local national forest and grassland offices or at any major public libraries across the country. A complete listing of libraries with these documents is found on the Roadless Project’s http://www.roadless.fs.fed.us website.
     

  • Order your own 47-page Summary of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement or the full two-volume Draft Environmental Impact Statement while supplies last by writing to:

    Rocky Mountain Research Station
    Publications Distribution
    240 West Prospect Road
    Fort Collins, CO 80526-2098

    Fax requests for document to (800) 777-5805.
     

  • Attend one of the many public information meetings being hosted by the Forest Service across the country. For a schedule of meetings close to you, check the website, contact your local Forest Service office, call (703) 605-5299 or toll-free (800) 384-7623, or call for a fax-on-demand at (888) 608-5976.
    How to comment on the proposed rule.
    All comments must be received by July 17, 2000
     

  • As part of this rulemaking, the Forest Service will hold an unprecedented number of public meetings throughout the country to provide opportunities to obtain information and comment on the roadless area conservation proposal. In addition to public meetings, the Forest Service is providing a variety of methods for the public to submit comment.

    Send postal mail to:
    USDA Forest Service-CAET
    Attention Roadless Areas Proposed Rule
    P.O. Box 221090
    Salt Lake City, UT 84122

    Fax comments to (877)-703-2494

    Send electronic comments through the http://www.roadless.fs.fed.us website by following the public comment instructions on the website.
     

  • Attend one of the numerous public comment forums hosted by the Forest Service across the country and make oral comments that will be recorded. To find out about the forum nearest you, check the website, contact your local Forest Service office, call (703) 605-5299 or toll-free (800) 384-7623, or call for a fax-on-demand at (888) 608-5976.

    Submit written comments at either the public information meetings or public comment forums hosted by the Forest Service during May and June 2000. Top

What’s the difference between a public information meeting and a public comment forum?

The public information meetings are designed to provide more information about the Forest Service’s proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement for roadless area conservation, how this proposal fits with other national projects, and what areas would be affected locally.

The comment forums are designed to let people give a brief verbal statement about the proposed rule that will be recorded for the public comment record.

Written comments will be accepted at both types of meetings, as well as throughout the comment period.Top

WHAT’S NEXT?

How would public comments influence the final rule and final environmental impact statement?

The public now has an opportunity to comment on the Proposed Rule and Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Forest Service will consider the comments and respond by any of the following means:

  1. Modify the alternatives including the proposed action and proposed rule;

  2. Develop and evaluate alternatives not previously given serious consideration by the agency;

  3. Supplement, improve, or modify its analyses; or

  4. Make factual corrections.

These responses will be disclosed in a Final Environmental Impact Statement and a Final Rule. The Final Rule will be issued at least 30 days after a Final Environmental Impact Statement is published. Top

How long is the comment period?

The comment period for the proposed rule began on May 10 and ends on July 17. Top

What sort of public involvement and outreach does the agency plan over the public comment period?

The Forest Service has initiated an unprecedented effort to collect public comment on the proposed rule. We are actively pursuing public comments on the proposal and alternatives. We have scheduled more than 330 public meetings across the country to share information about the proposal and listen to the public. The proposal is available from local Forest Service offices, public libraries, and on the Internet at the Roadless Project website at http://www.roadless.fs.fed.us . Color maps of inventoried roadless areas and other analysis materials are also available from the website. The Forest Service conducted more than 180 public meetings during the initial comment period, which yielded more than 365,000 responses. Top

Who will make the final decision?

The Secretary of Agriculture has authority to sign the final rule; the Secretary may delegate this authority. Top

Can the final rule be appealed?

Rulemaking decisions, including the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, are not subject to the Forest Service’s administrative appeal rules, but may be challenged in court. Top

What changes in management would immediately occur on the ground if the proposed rule were implemented as a final rule?

Road construction and reconstruction in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas would be prohibited.





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