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“Roadless Rule” Turns Ten in NV

January 22, 2008

Las Vegas, NV – This week is the tenth anniversary of a U.S. Forest Service rule that has special meaning for Nevada. The Roadless Area Conservation Policy, commonly known as the "Roadless Rule," protects 3.2 million acres of national forests -- more than half the state's total of almost 6 million acres -- from development and road building.

Mike Dombeck was the head of the Forest Service at the time the rule first went into effect. He says creating a road in any backcountry environment has to be carefully considered, for reasons that are both financial and environmental.

"The thing about building a road – it's usually forever. It's one of the most indelible marks that we make on the land and very, very difficult to turn the clock back."

In all, 1.6 million people submitted comments about the rule, and a Forest Service tally finds 95 percent of Americans are still in favor of the protections it affords.

At the Nevada Wilderness Project, Pauline Orendain says the rule may not be the most popular thing with off-road vehicle fans, but it leaves plenty of space available for everyone.

"They also enjoy the outdoors in a different way with their vehicles, but I think there needs to be a sense of responsibility that comes with that. There might be places that are designated for those kinds of activities, but then they also have to respect the areas where it's off limits."

Dombeck thinks the popularity of the rule has endured because it protects many of the activities and resources that Nevadans value.

"The bottom line is, they care about this. The best quality hunting and fishing, the highest water quality, and remaining habitats for many rare and endangered species."

In recent years, the Bush Administration has actively sought to gain access to roadless areas for developers, but the courts have upheld the provisions of the Roadless Rule. Today, 58 million acres of forestland are roadless, in 38 states.

Michael Clifford/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NV