Utah wants to open 4 million acres of national forest land to road-building and logging
First it was national monuments and the biggest rollback of public lands protections in United States history. Now, Utah’s national forestlands are in jeopardy.
The state of Utah has requested the U.S. Forest Service decrease protections on four million acres of national forestlands, opening them up to road building and logging.
Beginning this week, and with very little notice, the state of Utah announced it’s hosting listening sessions in Monticello, Heber City, Vernal, Manti, Richfield, Cedar City, asking the public to weigh in on how its most pristine national forests should be managed. The state of Utah planned no meetings in Salt Lake City, and therefore, Salt Lake County is hosting its own meeting on Tues., Oct. 23. The state of Utah has also requested each county submit recommendations by Nov. 1 indicating how the commissions would like to see national public lands in their counties managed. The state of Utah intends to submit its petition to the U.S. Forest Service by Dec. 14.
The federal Roadless Area Conservation Act prohibits new road building and logging on areas that are identified as having wilderness qualities. When the “Roadless Rule,” as it’s often referred, was adopted in 2001, there was significant public input and overwhelming support for the Rule. There are nearly 60 million acres of designated roadless areas in the United States – about a third of all U.S. Forest Service lands. Utah contains four million acres of that, ranging from the High Uintas to the Henry Mountains, the Wasatch Range to the La Sals. These wild forests are Utah’s natural playgrounds, providing abundant opportunities for spectacular outdoor recreation, including hiking, camping, hunting, horseback riding, and a wide range of additional uses.
Utah says this rule is needed to protect communities from wildfires. There’s no doubt that wildfires are a growing, critical concern. However, since 2013, 90 percent of all wildfires have started outside of roadless areas. And a vast majority of where structures, people and forested areas intersect – where wildfires are the greatest concern – are also outside protected roadless areas.
It’s unclear why the state of Utah is rushing a process that will have devastating effects on Utah’s national forests, but it is probably tied to the recently unveiled memo that asserts the state seeks to “[r]evoke the Forest Service’s roadless rule and reinstate timber production on federal land that has been managed as special areas or roadless areas.” We encourage you to ask Gov. Gary Herbert about it. Those interested in attending the Salt Lake public listening session can find the information below.
Also, the state is accepting comments at [email protected]
- Chelsi Moy, (406) 240-3013, [email protected]
The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org