Draft Idaho Roadless Plan Released; Sportsmen Encouraged to Comment

Upcoming 90-day comment period may shape future of hunting and fishing in state

WASHINGTON - As the U.S. Forest Service releases a draft plan for the future management of Idaho's roadless backcountry, Idahoans will have 90 days to weigh in on the management of public lands they hunt and fish. A national conservation coalition is urging sportsmen to make their voices heard.

"More than 9.3 million acres of the public's backcountry forests are under consideration here, so this is of huge importance to Idaho's hunting and fishing traditions," said Joel Webster, a field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. "While the policies affecting these areas recently have been in flux, one thing has remained constant - a whole lot of sportsmen appreciate the importance of Idaho's backcountry. Idaho hunters and anglers have a lot at stake in the roadless debate, so they need to attend the public meetings and make sure they comment."

The draft Idaho roadless rule which is expected to follow closely on the heels of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released yesterday will initiate a 90-day public comment period and a series of public meetings to be held across Idaho. The comment period caps a yearlong effort by the Forest Service and Idaho's government to develop a federal draft rule to guide the administration of Idaho's Inventoried Roadless Areas, or roadless backcountry. Notably, the Forest Service draft EIS recommends some levels of protections that are weaker than those proposed by Idaho's former governor Jim Risch. Chief among them are provisions that would permit roadbuilding on 5 million backcountry acres.

"Active involvement by hunters and anglers is necessary to ensure the future of quality big-game hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation in the Gem State," said William Geer, a TRCP initiative manager. "If Idaho sportsmen want to secure the future of their outdoor traditions, they must make their voices heard during the upcoming public comment period.

"Roadless areas provide important habitat for trout, steelhead and salmon, plus secure range and important hiding cover for big-game animals such as elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep," continued Geer. "Backcountry areas are key to guaranteeing longer hunting seasons, more available tags and numerous mature age-class animals."

---Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership