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CURRENT ANNOUNCEMENTS AND NEWS RELEASES
SOURCE: Federal Register, July 16, 2004
LATE UPDATE: ON SEPTEMBER 9, THE DEADLINE FOR
WAS EXTENDED TO NOVEMBER 15, 2004.
State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area Management
AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comment.
SUMMARY: The Department of Agriculture, Forest Service is proposing
changes to Subpart B of Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations,
Protection of Inventoried Roadless Areas (the roadless rule), adopted
on January 12, 2001 (66 FR 3244). This proposed rule would replace the
existing rule with a petitioning process that would provide Governors
an opportunity to seek establishment of management requirements for
National Forest System inventoried roadless areas within their States.
This opportunity for State petitions would be available for 18 months
following the effective date of the final rule. It is anticipated that
this timeframe will be sufficient for States to collaborate effectively
with local governments, stakeholders and other interested parties to
develop proposals that consider a full range of public input. A State
petition would be evaluated and, if accepted by the Secretary of
Agriculture, the Forest Service would initiate subsequent State-
specific rulemaking for the management of inventoried roadless areas in
cooperation with the State involved in the petitioning process, and in
consultation with stakeholders and experts.
In proposing this rule and seeking public comment, the agency is
responding to the continued controversy, policy concerns, and legal
uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the roadless rule. Public
comments received will be considered in the development of the final
DATES: Comments must be received in writing by September 14, 2004.
ADDRESSES: Send written comments by mail to: Content Analysis Team,
Attn: Roadless State Petitions, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 221090,
Salt Lake City, UT 84122; by facsimile to (801) 517-1014; or by e-mail
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service commitment
to land stewardship and public service is the framework within which
the agency manages natural resources as provided by law, regulation,
and other legal authorities. Implicit in this statement is the agency's
collaboration with public, private, and nonprofit partners. As a leader
in natural resource conservation, the USDA Forest Service provides
leadership in the conservation, management, and use of the Nation's
forest, rangeland, and aquatic ecosystems.
The USDA Forest Service manages National Forest System (NFS) lands
to maintain and enhance the quality of the environment to meet the
Nation's current and future needs. Activities implemented consistent
with land and resource management plans (forest plans) provide for
sustainable management by restoring and maintaining species diversity
and ecological productivity, and support recreation, water, timber,
minerals, fish, wildlife, wilderness, and aesthetic values for current
and future generations.
State governments are important partners in management of the
Nation's land and natural resources. States, particularly in the West,
own and manage large tracts of land with tremendous social and
biological value. State governments have frequently pioneered
innovative land management programs and policies. State governments
exert considerable influence over statewide economic development and
private land use, both of which significantly affect natural resource
management. In addition, State conservation agencies' relationships
with others offer additional partnership opportunities. Strong State
and Federal cooperation regarding management of inventoried roadless
areas can facilitate long-term, community-oriented solutions.
On January 12, 2001, the Department promulgated the roadless rule
at 36 CFR part 294 (66 FR 3244), which fundamentally changed the Forest
Service's longstanding approach to management of inventoried roadless
areas by establishing nationwide prohibitions generally limiting, with
some exceptions, timber harvest, road construction, and road
reconstruction within inventoried roadless areas on NFS lands.
Concerns were immediately expressed by those most impacted by the
roadless rule's prohibitions. These concerns included the sufficiency
and the accuracy of the information available for public review during
the rulemaking process; the inclusion of an estimated 2.8 million acres
of roaded lands in the land base affected by the rule's prohibitions;
the denial of requests to lengthen the public review period; the denial
of cooperating agency status requested by several Western States; the
sufficiency of the range of alternatives considered in the rulemaking
process; the need for flexibility and exceptions to allow for needed
resource management activities that would enhance or improve roadless
values or characteristics; and the changes made in the proposed rule
after the closure of the public comment period. Concerns were also
expressed about applying one set of standards uniformly to every
inventoried roadless area.....
Until promulgation of the 2001 roadless rule, the Forest Service
managed roadless areas based on individual forest plans. Forest plans
have been developed for each unit of the NFS through a public notice
and comment process, building on years of scientific findings and
extensive public involvement in forest planning. Forest plans typically
identify and recommend areas that would be appropriate to be designated
as wilderness by the Congress, and provide guidance on activities and
uses in these areas.
The roadless rule has been the subject of nine lawsuits in Federal
district courts in Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, and the
District of Columbia. In one of these lawsuits, the U.S. District Court
for the District of Idaho issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting
implementation of the roadless rule on May 10, 2001.....
USDA is committed to conserving and managing roadless areas and
considers roadless areas an important component of the NFS. The
Department believes that revising 36 CFR part 294 to replace the
existing rule with a State petitioning process that will allow State-
specific consideration of the needs of these areas is an appropriate
solution to address the challenges of roadless area management on NFS
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