Public Lands & Waters photo

Every one of us who loves to hunt, and who appreciates living in a nation where the rule of law protects that we which we cannot protect by our own efforts, has something to celebrate today. On October 20th the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The ruling could not come at a better time: this is opening weekend for us here in Montana, and in every state across the nation, hunters are sighting in, checking packs and tree stands, sharpening knives and greasing up boots, getting ready for or already immersed in the greatest and most intense time of the year.

The ruling upholds a law that powerful special interests in the timber, mining, and energy arenas sought to overturn (please check out the attached document with a list of the groups who sued to overturn it). These special interests did not oppose the Roadless Rule because there were tremendous supplies of minerals or timber, or energy on the lands in question, or because there were not already millions of miles of trail open. These interests opposed the Roadless Rule because (as we have seen with the theater-of-the-absurd “debate” over reducing federal deficits by cutting the miniscule amounts invested in conservation) they oppose, on ideological grounds, any questioning of the monarchical rule of unquestioned development and the dominion of the few, no matter the costs.

What was always shocking to me in this case was that the organized opposition to the Roadless Rule bulldogged the term “multiple use,” even while advocating for uses that would rapidly create a single-use landscape.

The Roadless Rule is now and has always been about multiple use. It does not prevent access to these last unroaded areas of our public lands, and it does not make them wilderness areas. The rule merely restricts building new roads into them. Land managers can undertake habitat restoration for wildlife and fish in these areas, there are and will be ATV trails to access them, trail building and clearing contractors can still use chainsaws in most of them. These are our public lands, our last best chance to keep our hunting and fishing heritage intact as more and more of us — and this definitely includes my family and me — lose our access to more and more acres of private land, and cannot afford to buy or lease our own.

As Joel Webster, who has worked on the roadless issue for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership for some exhausting years now, told me, “One of the things that always struck me, when you listen to the people who opposed the original Roadless Rule, was how they always tried to paint these places as inaccessible, as if they were out of reach, or locked up, when the opposite is true. We drive there, park and start walking in. We’re talking about places like the Little Missouri National Grasslands in North Dakota, some of the best big muley hunting left anywhere on public land. Places like Unit 55 in the Wallowas, the best public lands elk country in Oregon. There are 49 million acres in 37 states that are inventoried as roadless, and it’s the best hunting left available to all of us. It’s not that complex, it’s not locked up. You park and walk and hunt and fish.”


The photo here shows a buck Webser killed in a roadless area in the Northern Independence Mountains of Nevada during the early season rifle hunt just days ago. That backcountry habitat will be conserved by the 10th Circuit roadless ruling.

Click here [] to see a great map of roadless public lands across the U.S. Take note of Vermont, New Hampshire, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina. It’s NOT just about the big Wide Open West, its about the last 12,000 acres of roadless wild lands in my home state of Alabama, too.