The American West is setting an unenviable record in 2012, experiencing some of the largest wildfires in history. In addition to the toll the fires take on human life and property, fires pose challenges for wildlife management and recreational access. But the fires now ravaging Colorado and New Mexico are only one of many problems that impact the use and management of U.S. Forest Service lands.
Weather variability, invasive species, and predator/prey fluctuations are among the long list of factors that affect wildlife health, recreational use and recreational access in our National Forests. Forests require dynamic management to respond to these ever-changing problems and conditions. Despite this, the U.S. Forest Service is clinging to a one-size-fits-all management rule that prohibits local forest managers from exercising the flexibility necessary to adapt to changing management needs. Safari Club International (SCI) is trying to change this.
Why would the federal government enforce a rule that undermines healthy, sustainable forest management for future generations? This is exactly the question that the U.S. Supreme Court has been petitioned to consider in the case of State of Wyoming vs. the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where Wyoming is challenging the legality of the U.S. Forest Service’s 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule). This fall, the Supreme Court will decide whether it wants to hear that case.
The mandate of the 2001 Roadless Rule is inflexible – a centralized, D.C.-based planning approach for 58.5 million acres of National Forest lands, despite the fact that these wildly disparate lands are located in 38 states, composing almost one-third of our National Forest System. The core problem is that the permanent planning aspects of the Roadless Rule make it impossible for local forest unit planners to respond to changing conditions that impact wildlife, habitat and user access. The Roadless Rule deprives local forest planners of tools that they need to prevent catastrophic forest fires, reduce the impact of weather conditions, solve predator/prey imbalances and improve access for all recreationalists.
On June 15, 2012, Safari Club International filed our own amicus brief to encourage the Supreme Court to review the 2001 Roadless Rule. SCI’s brief explains how the Roadless Rule contradicts the U.S. Forest Service’s adaptive management approach to forest planning, and would violate statutory mandates to revise forest unit plans at least every 15 years. The brief also addresses the inequities that roadless restrictions pose for some members of the hunting community and the benefits that roadways provide for many species. SCI’s goal is to impress upon the Court the significant impact that the Roadless Rule has on the resources that SCI members and all hunters seek to enjoy in our nation’s forests.
SCI’s mission is to protect the freedom to hunt. Contrary to the beliefs and propaganda of wilderness activists, the Roadless Rule does very little to ensure that public lands are managed for long-term recreational use. In reality, the rule prevents local land managers from proactively managing our public lands and puts wildlife and forest health at risk.
We know that anti-hunting, anti-recreation aggressors will use this court case to further bend the management of our nation’s national forest against hunting and recreation. Those 501(c)(3) “charitable” organizations that are fighting to protect the Roadless Rule are doing so to appease their own rigid ideology, not the American public. Their threats to our heritage are ever present, but that is why SCI is submitting our own brief to support Wyoming’s challenge.
The position that we have taken in opposition to the one size fits all Roadless Rule will not be a popular one in some quarters. We know attacks will be focused on our organization, but we know through our support for active, healthy forest management, that SCI will be helping to improve wildlife populations for American sportsmen to enjoy for future generations.
John Whipple serves as Safari Club International’s President. He is a Life member of Safari Club International and SCI’s Political Action Committee and has been SCI/SCIF Deputy President-Elect, Treasurer, Executive Committee Vice President. John is a life-long hunter, having taken big game species across North America and abroad.
Image taken by John McColgan, released in public domain