California congressman wants to revoke roadless status for all federal lands
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — In another twist to the seemingly endless saga of roadless land management, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy has introduced legislation that would lift what he calls restrictive management practices on inventoried roadless areas and terminate both the 2001 and 2005 versions of the national roadless rule.
“Millions of acres of land across the United States are being held under lock and key unnecessarily,” McCarthy said. “My bill acts on recommendations made by the government agencies managing these lands so they are opened up for increased public use. This is just common sense. By opening these lands up to residents of our local communities and across the country for their use and enjoyment, we can help create jobs, boost local economies and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.”
McCarthy’s bill is backed by motorized recreation groups, cattle rancher associations and the National Rifle Association. Some local fire chiefs in California also support the measure, saying it would make it easier to fight fires and to implement logging and forest health plans.
The bill has little chance of ever making through the U.S. Senate, but symbolizes the fierce partisan battle raging over public lands management. The measure is opposed by a broad coalition of groups representing hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The American Flyfishing Trade Association this week joined Trout Unlimited in blasting McCarthy’s bill as the “Attack on our Sporting Heritage Act.
“This bill takes direct aim at America’s sporting heritage,” said Jim Klug, co-owner of Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures and the chairman of the AFFTA board of directors. “Under the guise of improving access to the backcountry for all Americans—something that we all support — Congress is instead allowing the best remaining wild and native fish habitat to be developed by industry and penetrated by new roads and motorized trails. We already have enough roads and trails, and the government can’t afford to maintain even a small percentage of them today. We don’t need more roads. We need to protect what’s left of our backcountry, protect habitat, and protect our existing access.”
The groups say that inventoried roadless lands provide the best remaining fish and game habitat in the United States, and they’re vital for the persistence of wild and native trout. In the Rocky Mountain West, roadless lands shelter the bulk of the country’s remaining cutthroat trout and bull trout populations. Additionally, the best remaining spawning and rearing habitat for ocean-going steelhead and salmon is in streams flowing through or from the roadless backcountry.
The coalition pointed out that roadless areas throughout the United States are accessible to all Americans. Many are bounded by paved highways, and others, despite the misleading status, are accessible by dirt roads and trails. Hunting and fishing are allowed on roadless lands — in fact, the country’s best hunting harvest rates for trophy deer and elk occur in hunting units that are predominantly roadless.