House Bill 1581 would open up roadless areas and other public lands for energy development. The state of Alaska is also challenging the Roadless Rule in another federal court. The roadless federal lands in Idaho are already exempted entirely, a situation being challenged in court by conservationists.
The rule allows recreation on federal land, which the Forest Service estimates keeps 223,000 people employed in mostly rural areas.
Tom O’Keefe, roadless policy advocate with The Outdoor Alliance, says roadless areas also are important buffer zones between inhabited areas and federal wilderness.
“So many of us take for granted the places that are easily accessible, the places you go for a day trip or a family hike. They’re just these really great places to enjoy that we all know and love, and often we don’t even know that they actually are roadless areas.”
O’Keefe says these are issues that take a long time to resolve because people hold strong opinions about how public lands should be managed.