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Conservation Science and Forest Service Policy for Roadless Areas

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Questions persist regarding whether the science of conservation biology can successfully affect environmental decision making. One of the most prominent fields of intersection between conservation science and environmental policy is public-lands debates in the United States. I reviewed the role of conservation science in the roadless-area policies of the U.S. Forest Service. Since 1971, the Forest Service has systematically evaluated roadless areas on national forests three times, most recently during the Clinton administration's Roadless Area Conservation Review (1998–2000) ( U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service 2000b ). Drawing on the agency's environmental impact statements and supporting documents and the internal records of conservation organizations, I examined the changing goals, methodology, and outcome of roadless-area advocacy and policy. Since the 1970s, conservation science has successfully informed public and administrative concern for roadless-area protection. Conservation science has transformed public discourse regarding roadless areas and has changed the scope and rationale of national conservation organizations' goals for roadless-area policy from protecting some to protecting all remaining national forest roadless areas. The Forest Service has increasingly drawn on the lessons of conservation biology to justify its methodology and its administrative recommendations to protect roadless areas. The 2000 Roadless Area Conservation Review resulted in a recommendation to protect all remaining national forest roadless areas, up from 22% of roadless areas in the first roadless review. Despite the scientific merits of recent roadless-area advocacy and policy, however, such initiatives have faced political difficulties. The emphasis on large-scale, top-down, national approaches to conservation policy has rendered such policies politically problematic.
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Keywords: biodiversity conservation; conservación de la biodiversidad; conservation policy; políticas de conservación; public lands; terrenos públicos

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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