Sustainable Management: Protecting America’s Backcountry

By John Whipple, SCI President

The American West is setting an unenviable wildfire record in 2012. In addition to the toll fire takes on human lives and property, fire also poses challenges for wildlife management and recreational access. But the fires 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 also factors affecting wildlife health, recreational use and recreational access in our National Forests, and forests require dynamic management to respond to those ever-changing problems and conditions. Despite that, the U.S. Forest Service is clinging to a one-size-fits-all management rule prohibiting local forest managers from adapting to changing needs. Safari Club International (SCI) is trying to change that.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been petitioned to consider the case of State of Wyoming vs. U.S. Department of Agriculture, in which Wyoming is challenging the legality of the U.S. Forest Service’s 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule).  The 2001 Roadless Rule is an inflexible, centralized, D.C.-based planning approach for 58.5 million acres of National Forest lands. The core problem is that permanent planning aspects of the Roadless Rule make it impossible for local forest unit planners to respond to changing local conditions, and deprives them of tools needed 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 violates 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.

We know that anti-hunting/anti-recreation aggressors will use this court case to further bend the management of our nation’s national forests against hunting and recreation. Those 501(c)(3) “charitable” organizations 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, and that is why SCI is submitting our own brief to support Wyoming’s challenge.

The position we have taken in opposition to the one-size-fits-all Roadless Rule will not be a popular one in some quarters. We know there will be focused attacks on our organization, but we also know that through our support for active, healthy forest management, SCI is helping to improve wildlife populations for American sportsmen to enjoy for future generations.

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