Conservation Update: The Facts About Roadless Public Lands, and Why They Need to Stay Roadless

The rhetoric in the growing battle over protecting the nation's roadless backcountry will heat up over the next few months, but sportsmen who want to understand what's really at stake should go to the new website www.oursportingheritage.com. Launched earlier this year by Trout Unlimited and supported by a coalition of national hunting and fishing groups, it does an excellent job of spelling out what sportsmen could lose, who is behind the effort to open up roadless areas, and exposing the weaknesses of their arguments.

The site includes information every sportsman needs to know, including the specifics of the bill that would release tens of millions of acres of the finest trophy-hunting and fishing areas left in the nation; an interactive map showing all western roadless areas; featured roadless areas listed by state; a list of news articles and columns from outdoor writers at newspapers across the west opposing the release, and tools to get involved in protecting the backcountry and our sporting heritage.

Some simple talking points from the site can help rebut the constant refrain that "extreme environmentalists are trying to lock up public lands":

* Simply put, roadless is the best of what's left when it comes to the opportunity for bigger bulls, bigger bucks, and better fishing.

* Road­less areas are highly acces­si­ble to the pub­lic. In fact, almost 90 per­cent of road­less areas in the For­est Ser­vice sys­tem fall within two miles of an estab­lished route. They are not remote areas inac­ces­si­ble to sportsmen.

* For sports­men, road­less areas pro­vide some of the longest hunt­ing sea­sons out there.

* Roadless areas are a boost, not a drag on the nation's economy. In any given year, the sport­ing com­mu­nity con­tributes almost $77 bil­lion to the econ­omy. And that con­tri­bu­tion is sus­tain­able -- as long as the habi­tat is pro­tected, which is why keep­ing road­less areas as they are is so impor­tant, not only from a recre­ation stand­point, but also from an eco­nomic one.