03:20 PM

For Immediate Release

State of Utah Petitions Feds to Eliminate Roadless Protections, Paving the Way for More Development on Pristine National Forest Lands

The State of Utah formally petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture late yesterday to eliminate and reduce protections for pristine areas within Utah’s national forests to allow for destructive logging, roadbuilding and development. Over 4 million acres of national forests in Utah are currently shielded from harmful uses under the landmark 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects nearly 60 million acres of unspoiled forests across America’s National Forest System. Utah’s petition asks the Secretary of Agriculture to outright drop protections for scores of protected roadless areas and gut existing rules for many more to allow for logging and roadbuilding, without any legitimate scientific justification.

Peter Nelson, Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“The Secretary of Agriculture must reject Utah’s brazen proposal to utterly dismantle roadless area protections for national forests in Utah. The proposal to log and road pristine areas in order to ‘improve’ them is unsupported by science, and will result in unacceptable harm to watersheds and wildlife. For over two decades, the Roadless Rule has successfully protected our nation’s forests and the wildlife that depend upon them from destructive roadbuilding and logging. But today, Utah joins Alaska, becoming the latest state to attack the Roadless Rule, while setting a dangerous precedent for how we manage our forests across the country.

“These attacks from the states are simply a play to elevate timber production and industrial development over other public values on our national forests. Roadless areas in Utah and across the nation protect our nation’s watersheds, offer unparalleled recreational opportunities, and provide habitat for hundreds of imperiled species. The State of Utah’s effort to eviscerate roadless protections will threaten a host of at-risk species, including cutthroat trout, greater sage-grouse, prairie dogs and others that depend on roadless habitat for survival.”


The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule:

  • Protecting nearly 60 million acres of unroaded areas within the National Forest System, the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule is one of America’s most important conservation achievements.
  • The Rule prohibits road construction and commercial logging within protected roadless areas with exceptions for science-based ecological restoration.
  • Roadless areas protected under the Rule provide for unparalleled recreation opportunities, clean drinking water for millions of Americans, and crucial habitat for at-risk fish and wildlife populations.
  • There are roughly 375,000 miles of roads within the National Forest System – enough to circle the Earth 15 times – along with a multi-billion-dollar road maintenance backlog.
  • The Rule has been under consistent legislative attack as some politicians have repeatedly tried to insert riders to undo or roll back the Rule into several pieces of unrelated, must-pass legislation.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.