Outdoor activities start Saturday in New Mexico national forests and across the country
Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) joins other governors and conservation groups from across the country to support America’s first annual Roadless Recreation Week, August 7-15, which will host more than 50 recreation activities in national forest roadless areas in New Mexico and in 12 other states. The weeklong celebration highlights the importance of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, issued to protect nearly 60 million acres of pristine national forests across the country, and encourages the public to go “all out” to enjoy the outdoor opportunities these areas provide.
Governor Richardson issued a proclamation today to “recognize the recreational, environmental and economic values” roadless areas provide and calls the national roadless rule “one of the most popular federal policies ever developed.” The proclamation notes that roadless areas are a source of drinking water for 60 million Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as recreation jobs in rural communities.
The USDA estimates there were 173.5 million recreation visits to U.S. Forest System lands in 2009, with more than 57 percent of those visits for activities such as hiking, mountain biking and fishing.
“People can have fun and show their support for saving these treasured places,” said Nathan Newcomer, Associate Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Roadless forests are some of the best outdoor recreation areas we have in the state, and New Mexicans are enjoying their roadless areas even more today than they did when the roadless rule was enacted in 2001.”
The first annual Roadless Recreation Week occurs as a federal court prepares to issue an important decision about the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The rule was issued in 2001 by the Clinton administration to protect roughly one-third of undeveloped U.S. Forest Service lands. It was the result of the largest public lands review process in U.S. history, with more than 1.2 million comments and 600 public hearings.
The rule has been the subject of conflicting court decisions over the past decade. In August 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling to reinstate the roadless rule for most roadless areas, but a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision is still pending. The Obama administration has expressed strong support for the national policy, and has asked the Tenth Circuit to uphold the rule.
New Mexico residents can go to www.nmwild.org to find out about the week’s activities in their area, and to learn how to support roadless area protection, and read Governor Richardson’s proclamation.