Americans Support ‘Roadless Rule’ to Protect Remarkable Forests

With some states seeking exemptions, poll shows strong backing for national policy

Mt Peale
Roadless areas, such as parts of the Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah, make up just 2 percent of all the land in the United States.
Tim Peterson

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, established nearly 20 years ago to conserve almost 60 million acres of our national forests in 39 states and territories, has provided a balanced and flexible approach that scientists and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have praised as an effective way to protect extraordinary lands.

Now, as two states—Alaska and Utah—are seeking exemptions to the roadless rule, a new poll finds that 75 percent of the general public favors the measure, and 59 percent believes that individual states should not be exempted from this national policy. The poll, conducted by the opinion and market research company SSRS for The Pew Charitable Trusts, also found that 87 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Independents, and 65 percent of Republicans favor the rule, as do majorities in both rural (77 percent) and nonrural (75 percent) areas.

The roadless rule was developed based on the support expressed to the U.S. Forest Service by millions of Americans who wanted to ensure conservation of the nation’s common natural heritage for future generations. The fiscally sound policy precludes most road construction and below-cost timber sales in the country’s most-remote forest lands.  Data show that well-protected public lands convey a host of benefits, including bringing significant revenue to surrounding communities and safeguarding vital watersheds.  Americans recognize these benefits and clearly want the roadless rule kept intact, without exemptions, so that current and future generations of hunters, hikers, anglers, and sightseers can continue to cherish the refuge that our roadless national forests provide.

The survey was conducted for The Pew Charitable Trusts via telephone (landline and cell) by SSRS, an independent research company.  Interviews were conducted Feb. 19-22, 2019, among a representative sample of 607 respondents.  The margin of error is +/-4.89 percentage points at a confidence level of 95 percent.

Ken Rait is a project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. Public Lands Conservation program.