USDA Forest Service
USDA Forest Service
Road Management Website
U.S. Department of Agriculture
 1400 Independence Ave., SW Washington, DC 20090 



News & Information > News Releases

Fact Sheet - Statistics - News Releases - Questions & Answers - Speeches & Testimony

Forest Service Limits New Road Construction In Most National Forests

WASHINGTON (Feb. 11, 1999) -- Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, joined by Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Jim Lyons and Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, today announced an 18-month moratorium on new road construction in unroaded areas in most national forests, allowing for safe public access while protecting the environment.

While the 18-month road construction suspension is in effect, the Forest Service will develop a long-term road policy for the National Forest Transportation System. In addition to minimizing environmental damage, the Forest Service will establish new policies to guide decisions on identifying unessential roads, recommending roads to be eliminated or maintained to reduce environmental damage, and assessing roads that need to be reconstructed and maintained so that they are safe and can sustain constant public use.

"Because a road is one of the most indelible marks man can leave on the landscape, it is our responsibility to safeguard the often irreplaceable ecological value of unroaded areas until a permanent policy can protect our last great open spaces, our water and wildlife, and the economic health of forest communities," Glickman said. "We are therefore calling an official time out, so we can examine the science, involve the public and build a roads policy for the 21st century."

"This interim policy will allow us to protect socially important and ecologically valuable roadless areas while we develop a protective and responsible long-term road policy," said Dombeck. "Itís fiscally and environmentally irresponsible to continue to build roads in unroaded areas with our current road system in such disrepair."

According to the new policy, which will be published tomorrow in the Federal Register as a final rule, all Forest Service roads will be placed in two categories - classified and unclassified. A classified road is at least 50 inches wide and constructed and maintained for vehicle use. An unclassified road is considered a road that was not constructed, maintained or intended for highway use.

Road management is a long-term financial commitment; once built, roads must be maintained by the Forest Service for many years. The Forest Service estimates the national forest road system has 383,000 miles of classified roads and 52,000 miles of unclassified roads. The agency projects the current backlog for maintenance and reconstruction of existing roads is $8.4 billion. It only receives 18 percent of the funding needed to annually maintain roads to federal safety and environmental standards.

"I commend Jim Lyons, Mike Dombeck and the Forest Service for the leadership role they have taken in implementing this temporary halt to road construction," Glickman said. "This process will provide the agency and public an opportunity to work together in finding a solution to this urgent problem."

The 18-month rule will affect unroaded areas - portions of the National Forest System that do not contain classified roads. It also affects those areas as listed below:

* All remaining roadless portions of Roadless Area Review and Evaluation II (RARE II) areas and forest plan inventoried areas that lie 1/4-mile or more beyond any classified road.

* A National Forest System area that is more than 1,000 acres unroaded and contiguous to a remaining roadless portion of RARE II areas or Forest Plan inventoried areas.

* All roadless areas identified in the Southern Appalachian Assessment.

* National Forest System lands of 1,000 acres or more unroaded and contiguous to wild segments of the Wild and Scenic River System.

* National Forest System lands of 1,000 acres unroaded and contiguous to other federal roadless areas of 5,000 acres or more.

Areas exempt from this rule include the following:

* National forests with forest plans that have been revised since January 1, 1996 and have completed the appeal process.

* Those forests with revised forest plans that are under administrative appeal or revised during the period of the interim rule.

* Those forests with plan revisions or amendments resulting from multi-federal agency coordination using a science-based, eco-regional assessment.

* Road construction for public safety.

* Those areas where road access is necessary to ensure access by statute, treaty, or reserved to outstanding private right

* Those areas where road access is necessary to save life or property because of flood, fire,

or other catastrophic event.

The decision, which goes into effect in 15 days, is the outcome of the Forest Service analysis of the public comments and hearings it received and conducted on a proposal made last year.

Release No. 0054.99
Andrew Kauders: (202) 720-4623
Forest Service Media Desk: (202) 205-1134

This Page Updated 03/01/00


Home | News & Info | Public Involvement | Documents | Proposed Policy | Links | Privacy Statement & Disclaimer