This map represents almost all of the paved and unpaved roads in the United States. The significance of this map is not the density of the roads —although that is impressive— but how few lands there are without any roads. In fact, the farthest point one can get from a road is a mere 22 miles, and it is located in the Teton Wilderness in Wyoming. Most of the roadless land in the United States is no more than two to three miles from a road. Because the influence of a road extends beyond just the road itself, the United States Geological Survey estimates that roads ecologically affect 22 percent of the land area in the United States.
One argument made by thrillcraft users is that they don’t have enough places to go, and the mentality, often perpetrated through industry advertisements and attitudes in general, is to go where no one has gone before. But with all the road options demonstrated on this map, one wonders if that argument, and that attitude, is really appropriate.
Roads and motorized routes have many negative effects on our environment. The most obvious is the direct killing of wildlife by cars and other motorized vehicles. An even more significant impact has been on the displacement of wildlife through habitat fragmentation and fractured migration routes. Roads and trails become vectors for the spread of weeds and travel corridors for species that might not otherwise venture into a region, creating an imbalance in the natural ecosystem and in predator-prey relationships. Roads and trails also affect hydrology, cutting into natural slopes and affecting drainage.
The impacts of roads are numerous and significant, begging the question, do we really need any more of them and shouldn’t we protect the last remaining roadless areas?