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Roadless Wilderness Regulations

Roadless Wilderness

 In 1998 the United States Forest Service issued a directive suspending the construction of roads in roadless areas of our national forests. In October 13, 1999, President Clinton asked the  Forest Service to begin discussing with the public a moratorium on road building in our National Forests. 

As with any important issue, the Forest Service has put this issue up for public discussion. Before implementing any major change in policy the Forest Service conducts public hearings. All are welcome but all too often the timber companies are the most faithful attendee's.

Public Opinion

Many are not aware of these hearings or that the Forest Service weighs public opinion in the decision making process. The timber companies are very well aware and often use their wealth to influence policy. Because the meetings are held in the middle of the day and at locations that may not be convenient for all to attend, e mail and letters make it necessary to be heard. Resources are included here at the end of this article.

Timber Barons

Before going any further it may be necessary to define the function of the Forest Service and the mission that they are empowered to do. At the turn of the century the timber barons were buying up large tracts of Forests for the purpose of clear cutting. The forests of the Northeast were nearly gone so they tuned their axes to the virgin forests of the southeast and the far west. As the forests were being decimated with unregulated clear cutting, large treeless areas were left behind. Piles of slash, smaller branches that can't be used for lumber, were left behind creating a tinder box waiting to explode. In some areas a sea of stumps extended as far as the could see. Often the Timber companies would abandon this land when they were finished with their logging operations. The resulting floods and forest fires were the worst that this country had ever seen. The loss of life and property by private citizens was catastrophic.

The Weeks Act

The great flood of 1907 was an incredible disaster in the city of Pittsburgh, Pa. There was a great loss of life and the great steel mills were severely damaged. This loss of life and income was blamed on the clear cutting of forests upstream from the city. This unregulated activity and abandonment of land lead to erosion and unusual run off and lead to this great flood. At the time there was a great public outcry and many credit that single event for the passage of the Weeks Act of 1911.

The Weeks act appropriated $9 million dollars to purchase 6 million acres of land in the eastern United States for the purpose of establishing national forests. Much of this land was abandoned or unwanted by large timber companies and therefore inexpensive. The purpose of this act was to conserve watersheds and forests to ensure that the flood of 1907 did not reoccur. This landmark legislation was the first in this country to demonstrate the close connection between issues of watershed protection and issues of forestry.


The premise for the creation of the United States Forest Service was for the stewardship of our national forest land. Stewardship is defined as the administration of land and associated resources in a manner that enables them to be passed on to future generations in a healthy condition. As time passed, closer to the present, this responsible vision was forgotten. Timber companies were allowed to apply for permits to clear cut timber on our public lands. They were also allowed to build roads to access these remote stands of timber. Often these practices were allowed because the public did not attend hearings in any significant numbers.


The Forest Service's timber sale program loses 1.2 billion dollars annually. This does not include maintenance costs of forest roads and hidden administrative costs. That is only the beginning. Businesses and municipalities nearest to the forest land also have unaccounted costs that may be in the billions. There is far more revenue created by recreational opportunities and tourism than the few jobs created by logging. Very little of the income created by the timber sales is transferred to the impacted communities surrounding the forests. Increased filtration cost for drinking water and decreased tourist revenue makes the timber sales fiscally irresponsible.

Roadless area definition

First it should be understood that the roadless policy is not for every acre of the National Forest Land. The proposed policy is for undeveloped areas that meet minimum criteria for wilderness consideration under the Wilderness Act of 1964.  These are areas typically exceeding 5,000 acres that were inventoried during the agency's formal Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II) process, and remain in a roadless condition through forest planning decisions. The roadless policy only affects 54 million of 194 million acres of US Forest Service land. Not much, looking at the big picture, so why would anyone object?

Roadless Forests Conclusion

What do I do?

The Forest Service does listen to your voice when it devises policy changes as far sweeping as this. Below there is a list of contact information available if you can not attend the public hearings. You can be sure that the timber companies and other commercial interests will have their representatives present. Nothing is quite like a face to face meeting but if you can't attend please use the information below to be heard. We can not afford, economically and environmentally to allow commercial interests to continue to abuse our public lands!

Contact Information:


Roadless Policy

National Forests In North Carolina
June 10, 2001
Owen Conference Center University of North Carolina at Asheville One University Heights
9:00 a.m. to
12:00 p.m.
Carol Milholen
(828) 257-4860


If you can't make it to the meeting please e mail your comments to the following address. In the subject heading put "Roadless Policy". It is important to make your message brief and to the point to insure that it is read.


Snail Mail:

All comments must be received by July 17, 2000. Comments can also be faxed directly to 877-703-2494 or mailed to: USDA Forest Service-CAET; Attention: Roadless Area Proposed Rule, PO Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122.

Web Site:

People can also comment directly at the roadless website, 



People can also call the roadless toll-free information number, 1-800-384-7623 or locally, call 703-605-5299.



To help people review, understand and improve the proposal, more than 300 meetings are scheduled throughout the country.

A schedule of meetings is available on the website:


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