8/12/2010 - It's Roadless Recreation Week in NC
by Margaret Williams, Mountain Xpress
FROM THE NC NEWS SERVICE
The country's first-ever "Roadless Recreation Week" kicks off in North Carolina and other states this week. There are hikes and bike rides planned across the state as part of the campaign, including several organized by the Asheville-based Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition. Its director, Mark Shelley, explains why roadless areas are invaluable to conservation efforts.
"The experience harkens back to earlier times when forests were healthy and vibrant and so, we like to try and hold on to these places, and the best opportunity to do that is the Roadless Rule."
Roadless Recreation Week takes place as a federal court ponders a case that could affect the fate of the 2001 national Roadless Rule that protects roughly one-third of undeveloped Forest Service lands. The rule has been the subject of conflicting court decisions in the past decade. Last summer, a federal judge upheld the rule; another, similar case is pending. Opponents of continued roadless area protection argue that limiting growth in those areas hinders mining, ranching and timber efforts, thereby limiting opportunities for vital job creation.
According to Shelley, there are 172,000 roadless acres in the Tarheel State, making it home to some of the largest pristine areas on the East Coast.
"Roadless areas are the last wild places in the country; and by 'roadless,' they mean there are no, or very little, roads in these areas. Those areas are especially rare in the east."
North Carolina joins the states of Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Colorado in commemorating Roadless Recreation Week. For a list of this week's activities, see http://www.ourforests.org or http://www.safc.org.