Why Some Groups Support HR 1581: Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act

I can’t automatically go along with HR 1581 (read our previous post for background info) just because it is supported by some of the groups I support or have supported in the past. I need to think seriously about the purpose of the bill and how it will affect the things I care most about.

From the information I could glean, there appears to be six main reasons (below) that groups support HR 1581 or want to change the Roadless Rule. As I read down the list, I concede that each of the six points may have some merit, but I also know these are all positive statements designed to sell us on the idea.  I also know there will be many unintended consequences of this bill as with every thing else the government does.

6 Main Reason Groups Support HR 1581

  1. Improved access will allow more recreation opportunities of all types
  2. USFS can’t manage the forests properly or fight fires without access
  3. Lack of access to hunting areas is supposedly one of the biggest reasons why people stop hunting
  4. Management would include more local input and not the “one size fits all” mandate from Washington
  5. Increased recreation activities would benefit local economies
  6. Hunting must be considered for all planning on federal lands

1. Improved Access will allow more Recreation Opportunities of all Types

atv trail despite no motor vehicles

Some people just don’t care and will find a way to access closed areas, regardless of any rules.

No doubt, more roads will allow more access and will attract more recreation of all types. But has the case been made that access is inadequate and who gets to decide if an area has enough access or not? I recently read somewhere that about 98% of all land in the U.S. was within one mile of a road. Do we have to have motorized vehicle access to every corner? Is the last 2% not more valuable without roads?

I found the following quote repeated, word for word, at dozens of websites as evidence that there is inadequate access to public lands:

“A 2004 report to the House Appropriations Committee, stimulated by a Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) report, concluded that more than 35 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S Forest Service (USFS) land have inadequate access.”

Nobody, including Congressman Mike Ross, who also used the quote on his website, provided a citation so we can read it for ourselves. I requested the citation from Congressman Mike Ross’s Office, but so far had no response (surprise, surprise). It is curious that the page at the Congressman’s website has been removed.

I did find the following quote page 16 of this 2002 report:

“Over a decade ago, a General Accounting Office (GAO) report found that over 50.4 million acres of public lands administered by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management had inadequate access.”

It is interesting that the language of the two quotes is so similar, as if the report is always the same, but with the dates and numbers changed. If nothing else, some politician should claim credit for creating adequate access to 15.4 million acres of public land between 1992 and 2004 without anyone knowing.

How can anyone still be worried about access when 1.3 million acres per year of public lands apparently moved from being classified as having inadequate access to adequate access without any special legislation? At that rate, the remaining 35 million acres described as having inadequate access will also have adequate access in 27 years.

Is Multiple Use Good For All?

Even if we could all agree that access was inadequate, what about different recreational opportunities that conflict with each other?

Let’s say that you found the perfect little camp site besides a pristine lake to set up camp for a quiet, relaxing weekend. But since it is public land, someone else can set up their camp right next to you. Problem is, they spend all afternoon spinning doughnuts with their 4-wheelers upwind of your camp.atv multiple use access They also allow the 10 year old to run around unsupervised to plink everything in sight with his .22. Then after dark, they start up the generator and crank up the boom box until after midnight. That’s probably not even considered multiple use.

Both groups have a right to enjoy their camping trip and there should be a place for both families to do so, but while the trip might have been the greatest weekend of all time for one group, it would have been a nightmare for the other. Same thing with other types of multiple use, some “uses” prevent other uses.

2. USFS can’t Manage the Forests Properly or Fight Fires Adequately without Access

Sounds logical, but does this also imply that the USFS has managed the forest properly where there is access? Are they telling us that there have never been catastrophic fires where there roads exist? Of course not. So this is either wishful thinking or it’s just a poor example to use to pad the list.

There also seems to be the implication that the only reason to manage forests is to prevent forest fires. If we have issues with the way the USFS manages forests, then perhaps that needs to be addresses separately. Also remember that management includes lots of options that are not prevented by the Roadless Rule, including maintaining roads.

3. Lack of Access to Hunting Areas is one of the Biggest Reasons why People Stop Hunting

That may be true, but I doubt that many of those hunters that gave up live in the states that will be affected the most by HR 1581, lack of hunting opportunity has to be more about limited access to private land not access to public land. I have read many times that 90% of hunters never hunt more than 1/4 mile away from roads. That means there is opportunity for anyone that has access to public land that is willing to walk at least 1/4 mile. I definitely support the states acquiring more lands for wildlife management and to increase hunting opportunities.

4. Management would Include More Local Input

I agree totally. But I don’t have line item veto power (and neither does the President). I would be for any policy that allowed more local input.

5. Increased Recreation Activities would Benefit Local Economies

Perhaps. Perhaps not. For example, I can see how an area could become an ATV Mecca that would bring all sorts of revenue into an area. But that doesn’t automatically mean that the economic impact from hunting or fishing would remain the same. Is this issue to be decided by cost-benefit analysis? If so, we should just follow the example set by the railroads during the 19th century. Their bankers advised them to clear cut the timber and to then sell the land and put all the money in the bank. They could then be money managers and not land managers. So who gets to decide?

6. Hunting must be Considered for all Planning on Federal Lands

Again, I totally agree, but I still don’t have line item veto. I would be for any policy that allowed more local input.

Before anyone could seriously support the entire HR 1581 bill, they must first be convinced that there is not adequate access to most public lands. I am not.

Congressman McCarthy, an HR 1581 Sponsor, Answers a Question about the Act:

Why do Hunters Support HR 1581?

safari club international supports hr 1581Safari Club International (SCI) represents many hunters around the world and the SCI support for HR 1581 seems to be primarily from a philosophy of  supporting multiple use and to counter what they perceive to be protectionist attitudes of the BLM and USFS, which they say prevents hunter access. They also mention the lack of management by the USFS on roadless areas, but do not say what management practices they would like to implement.

I am at a loss to explain why hunters or pro-hunting organizations support this bill. I obviously do not understand the mission of SCI. Jim Shockey, can you explain this to me?

Our next post will cover the groups who oppose HR 1581 and why.

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