Road ripping

  • No Place Distant cover

  The 43,000 mile-long U.S. Interstate Highway System "has been called the largest public works program in the history of the world dwarfing ... Egypt’s pyramids and the Great Wall of China," writes David Havlick in No Place Distant: Roads and Motorized Recreation on American’s Public Lands. Roads across our national forests, parks, wildlife refuges and BLM lands, by comparison, "span nearly thirteen times the length of the entire interstate highway system."

Havlick looks at the origin of these roads, as well as their role in public-land management and their impacts on ecosystems and wildlife. Federal agencies have never been able to maintain the roads they built, he writes, and eroding and collapsing roads are commonplace throughout the system.

Havlick is especially interesting when he considers the benefits of ripping out roads. Road removal does more than end erosion, which smothers salmon spawning beds and costs towns and cities millions in water treatment costs. Removing old roads — and restoring native landscapes — can create high-skill, high-paying jobs.

No Place Distant offers a road map for healing many of our landscape’s wounds, while simultaneously injecting some energy into rural economies hammered by declining timber markets and the lengthening recession.

No Place Distant: Roads and Motorized Recreation on America’s Public Lands
by David G. Havlick.
297 pages, softcover $19.95.
Island Press, 2002.