February 12, 1994

Auto-Free Bay Area Coalition / "Going Clean Journal"

P.O. Box 10141

Berkeley, California 94709

Re: February 9-11, 1994 "Road-Ripping Conference"


Officially titled a "Road-Fighting Strategy Session", this invitation-only conference put on by the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium brought together 30 of the best minds in the pro-wildlife, anti-road movement. Its goal was simple: identify the roads most damaging to wildlife, and plan a campaign to get them closed (obliterated and revegetated).

I can't imagine a more important or exciting mission. Roads are the greatest current threat to the continued existence of life on Earth. Besides the millions of animals killed daily while attempting to cross a road, roads also fragment wildlife habitat, reducing biodiversity (because many animals are afraid to cross such an open space), and bring with them numerous toxic chemicals (herbicides used to clear the shoulders, oil dripping from vehicles, chemical spills, etc.), exotic (nonnative) species, hunters, poachers, tourists, etc.

In other words, large, undisturbed wildlife reserves (roadless core areas containing the most important habitat, surrounded by buffer zones hosting only low-impact human uses, and linked by wildlife corridors) need to be created by expanding and linking all currently protected areas and removing all the roads that stand in the way.

Take, for example, Route 75 in Florida. It regularly causes the death of alligators and the endangered Florida panther. At this moment, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to build parking lots along it designed to allow the launching of off-road vehicles! Or the Selkirk Boundary Creek Road in Idaho and Canada, which inhibits the movement of grizzlies.

Dave Foreman gave a history of the road-fighting movement from Aldo Leopold on. Conservation biologist Reed Noss explained the scientific basis for the need to close roads. (Justice William O. Douglas: "Any road is a dagger pointed at the heart of wilderness".) Activist Keith Hammer described how the Forest Service's regulations set standards for maximum road densities on FS lands, and provide a procedure for closing any roads above that limit. (The FS is the largest road manager in the world, with 350,000 miles of roads!) Jasper Carlton of the Biodiversity Legal Foundation explained how anyone can get roads closed by applying the Endangered Species Act: preserving endangered species takes precedence over all other human concerns!

In short, the procedure is to study the literature on all of the species of the area and review their status (endangered, threatened, or sensitive?), then analyze what is needed to allow the endangered species to recover. Particularly important (to the preservation of wilderness) are species that need a large territory, such as the grizzly. But due to species interdependence, plants and invertebrates are also extremely important. The habitat conservation map that results from this analysis indicates which roads need to be closed.

Our initial list of especially damaging roads includes the Steele Pass Corridor in Death Valley, the San Joaquin Toll Road (under construction) in southern CA, Route 96 in NW CA, the Northstar Road in the greater Gila region, the Magruder Corridor in the Selway-Bitteroot (ID/MT), the Ashton, ID - Flagg Road in the greater Yellowstone region, Route 20 through the Cascades in NW WA, and the Taylor Pass and Schofield Pass roads in CO.



Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.

References: "The Wildlands Project", a Special Issue of "Wild Earth" (P.O. Box 492, Canton, NY 13617, 315-379-9940), published by The Cenozoic Society; Special "Obliterate! Revegetate!" Issue of Preserve Appalachian Wilderness ("featuring the new and improved road ripper's guide") (published by PAW NET, 117 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301, 802-257-4878); Biodiversity Legal Foundation, P.O. Box 18327, Boulder, CO 80308-8327, 303-442-3037)