Roadless Rule Public Notice

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – February 28, 2019.  The State of Utah has submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a new, Utah-specific “Roadless Rule” that would better promote healthy and resilient forests in Utah’s designated Roadless Areas.  The State has requested that the U.S. Forest Service be granted greater ability to respond to threats posed by drought, climate change, insect infestations, buildup of hazardous fuels, and other challenges.  The State hopes that additional tools placed in the hands of the U.S. Forest Service will help alleviate the risk of unwanted wildfires, habitat degradation, and other problems becoming more common in Utah’s forests. 

The State’s request, or “petition,” is only the first step in a long process to develop a Utah-specific Roadless Rule.  Utah’s petition, if accepted by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, will launch the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (led by the U.S. Forest Service) to analyze the potential impact of a Utah-specific Roadless Rule.  The Environmental Impact Statement process will offer various opportunities for members of the public and stakeholders to provide input on the State’s proposal.  The writing of the Environmental Impact Statement will then lead to “rulemaking,” the actual writing of state-specific rule for Utah’s Roadless Areas.  While the State of Utah will participate throughout the development of the Environmental Impact Statement, all actual decision-making authority will be held by the U.S. Forest Service. 

The existing Roadless Rule, implemented in 2001, limits the ability of the U.S. Forest Service to reduce hazardous fuels or thin overgrown stands of trees in designated Roadless Areas (which account for approximately 50% of Utah’s National Forest lands).  The existing Roadless Rule also prohibits the Forest Service from building temporary administrative roads in Roadless Areas that are often needed to carry out successful projects that improve forest health. 

The State’s petition asks for a new Utah-specific Roadless Rule that would give local Forest Service professionals more ability to thin overgrown trees and reduce hazardous fuels (in some designated Roadless Areas) when needed to promote healthy and resilient forests.  The State’s petition also asks that the Forest Service have more latitude to construct temporary administrative roads needed to perform such projects and improve forest conditions.  The State’s petition does not open the door to commercial logging or the construction of new recreational roads. 

Several counties in Utah asked that the existing Roadless Rule be maintained for some (or all) of the Inventoried Roadless Areas in their counties.  These requests are incorporated into the State’s petition.  These counties include Salt Lake and Grand counties, which asked for the continuation of the existing Roadless Rule for all Roadless Areas in their respective counties.  Other counties requested that a limited number of Inventoried Roadless Areas be removed from the jurisdiction of the existing Roadless Rule and returned to general forest management.  These requests are also included in the State’s petition.

Roadless areas and requests can be viewed on this map.