Cache Valley residents speak out on proposed changes to “Roadless Rule”

Residents weighed in on a proposal that would revamp the US Forest Service “Roadless Rule” in Utah during a recent Cache County public hearing.

The 2001 Roadless Rule prohibits road construction, reconstruction, and timber harvesting on inventoried roadless areas in our national forests.

Utah is seeking a state-specific amendment to the national Roadless Rule to give the U.S. Forest Service more flexibility to manage overgrown forests, notably to aid in fighting fires.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert is spearheading the proposed changes. His office said the aim of the proposal is to create new mechanisms to protect Forest Service lands in the state.

Backcountry Horsemen Bridgerland Chapter President Kari Prescott said Governor Herbert “is using forest fires as a reason to build and penetrate our public lands and wilderness areas.”  She said changes aren’t necessary because the “Roadless Rule” in place currently allows for fire management.

Part of the proposal would allow for temporary roads to be built so crews could go in and remove overgrowth in Utah’s forests.

Cache County resident J.D Ray wants to be certain temporary roads remain temporary.

“But I don’t have any language that’s been shared with me by the Forest Service or land commission about how that’s going to happen,” he said. “Who’s going to close it? What are the rules about how much time they have to return it to the condition it was in before they went in for their project?”  Ray added, “ I feel we don’t need to be building any more roads.  Let’s get into communities and do specific boundary work to protect communities from potential fires.”

A number of residents support Governor Herbert’s amendment.

Nathan Zollinger represents the Top of Utah Snowmobile Association. He said the group is in favor of multi-use access to our public lands.  “We are in support of the Governor’s process.”  He said we see too much bureaucracy and red tape and “we believe this process can be beneficial in allowing for flexibility in land use management.”

Input from Utah state agencies, Utah counties, stakeholders and the general public will be included in the proposal and future studies generated if the proposal is accepted by the Forest Service.

Governor Herbert hopes a workable petition will be ready to submit to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials by the end of December.

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