Heritage Act and Forest Management

How would Inventoried Roadless Areas be affected by the Heritage Act?

Questions and Answers


Noxious Weeds

Forest Management


Mountain Bikes


The Heritage Act is clear that current laws and regulations must be upheld, which would include the roadless rule. As an added layer of protection, The Heritage Act specifically lists roadless as one of the values to be protected in making decisions about management of the CMA. While temporary roads would be allowed within the area ¼ mile or less from the Teton, S. Fork Teton, Sun River, and Benchmark roads, most of this area falls within the 5% or so of the national forest lands on the Front that is not inventoried roadless.  These roads would still have to be obliterated after completion of a project, returning the land to its natural state.

Does the Heritage Act impact traditional activities like firewood gathering?

No. Firewood gathering and post and pole collection would continue largely unchanged under the Heritage Act.   The areas where these activities occur are not in any of the Wilderness additions and changes were made to the original version of the Heritage Act to allow for temporary roads to be built within ¼ mile of the Teton, S. Fork Teton, Sun River, and Benchmark roads. This covers the primary areas for these activities.

Does the Heritage Act impact Forest Service fuel reduction projects?  

The Heritage Act does not change how the Forest Service and BLM manage fire; they retain all existing authority and discretion to fight fires as they see fit. The Heritage Act provides the Forest Service the flexibility they need to undertake thinning and fuel reduction work in the CMA to protect private property and increases public and firefighter safety.  Around cabins, campgrounds, and other facilities that would require fuel reduction work these fall within the 9,500 acres where temporary road construction is allowed.  For example, the proposed Benchmark Fuels Reduction project, which was supported by many Coalition members and organizations would be allowed under the Heritage Act since it did not propose any new permanent roads or temporary roads greater than ¼ mile distant from the Benchmark road.

What impact does new Wilderness have on firefighting?

Not much. The Wilderness Act permits any form of management necessary to protect public health and safety at the discretion of the Forest Service including motorized equipment and fire roads. Section 4(d) (1) of the Act states that "such measures may be taken as necessary in the control of fires, insects and diseases" within wilderness.  Since then, Congress has clarified that actions to address fire, insect outbreaks, and disease in wilderness areas include, ‘‘the use of motorized equipment, the building of fire roads, fire towers, fire breaks, or fire pre-suppression facilities where necessary and other techniques for fire control. In short, anything necessary for the protection of public health and safety is clearly permissible.’’

Does The Heritage Act impact management of insect outbreaks like mountain pine beetle?

No. There is little the Forest Service (or others) can do to stop the spread of insect outbreaks, especially mountain pine beetle. The agency’s primary and most cost effective strategy is to address the related wildfire threat by thinning dead trees near structures, facilities, and main travel corridors, which the Heritage Act allows.  

Why doesn’t the Heritage Act have provisions to encourage commercial timber and/or catalyze restoration activities, similar to Senator Tester’s “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act”?

It’s a different type of place. The Rocky Mountain Front landscape is drier and overall does not produce large, commercially valuable trees compared to the three areas in Senator Tester’s bill. Also, unlike the areas in Senator Tester’s bill, the rugged terrain of the Front has discouraged road building and the associated high road densities, clogged culverts, or erosion issues that require forest restoration.