The roadless areas of the Bighorn National Forest (BNF) are the undeveloped forest areas that have resisted development through natural barriers, the shoulder of the mountain range, many of the incredible canyons, and lower elevation areas across the forest and basin. The roadless areas contain subalpine, mid -and lower- elevation conifer forest, aspen, and juniper that provide habitat for wildlife and birds. All of the significant riparian areas in the BNF have some roadless protections within portions of their boundaries to include: Big Goose Creek, Buffalo Creek, Clear Creek, Tongue Canyon, Piney Creek, Tensleep Creek, Paint Rock Creek, Trapper Creek, White Creek, Medicine Lodge, and Shell Creek. This is not a complete list.
Roadless areas that that were protected by the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (RCRA) are currently under attack by action of petition from Utah. In Wyoming, legislation is proposed by a member of our Congressional delegation, Representative Liz Cheney, to severely limit the protections the RCRA provides. In the late 1970’s 696,000 acres of the Bighorn National Forest were inventoried as roadless. By 2005, we lost more than 126,000 acres to development from timber, road construction, changes in trail classifications, motorized travel, and administrative changes. We cannot lose any of our roadless lands, Research Natural Areas, recommended Wilderness, significant cultural sites, and more to a land grab by some recreational forces, industry, and local governments.
The roadless lands within the Bighorn National Forest provide critical environments for birds and wildlife, forest health, water quality, and primitive recreation with solitude—all economic contributors to our state and our local communities. In the time of burgeoning populations, and the increased stresses of over-development across the Western United States, these wild areas are vitally important.