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USDA Forest Service Roadless Areas: Potential Biodiversity Conservation Reserves

Colby Loucks, World Wildlife Fund
Nicholas Brown, NatureServe
Andrea Loucks, Pinchot Institute
Kerry Cesareo, World Wildlife Fund


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In January 2001, approximately 23 x 106 ha of land in the U.S. National Forest System were slated to remain roadless and protected from timber extraction under the Final Roadless Conservation Rule. We examined the potential contributions of these areas to the conservation of biodiversity. Using GIS, we analyzed

the concordance of inventoried roadless areas (IRAs) with ecoregion-scale biological

importance and endangered and imperiled species distributions on a scale of 1:24,000.

We found that more than 25% of IRAs are located in globally or regionally outstanding ecoregions and that 77% of inventoried roadless areas have the potential to conserve threatened, endangered, or imperiled species. IRAs would increase the conservation reserve network containing these species by 156%. We further illustrate the conservation potential of IRAs by highlighting their contribution to the conservation of the grizzly bear (Ursos arctos), a wide-ranging carnivore. The area created by the addition of IRAs to the existing system of conservation reserves shows a strong concordance with grizzly bear recovery zones and habitat range. Based on these findings, we conclude that IRAs belonging to the U.S. Forest Service are one of the most important biotic areas in the nation, and that their status as roadless areas could have lasting and far-reaching effects for biodiversity conservation.

Key words

GIS, USDA Forest Service, biodiversity conservation, endangered species, grizzly bears, imperiled species, roadless areas, threatened species
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087