Colorado roadless proposal ups extra protections

A new U.S. Forest Service proposal would more than double the acreage the state of Colorado has recommended for protections greater than those provided under the 2001 national Roadless Rule.

The Forest Service today kicked off a 90-day public comment period on its new Colorado Roadless Rule proposal. A final decision on the proposal is expected late this year.

The proposal covers more than 4 million roadless acres in total. It would provide higher protections than the 2001 rule for 562,200 of those acres, up from the 257,000 proposed for such protections by the state.

It also updates the state’s roadless area inventory by removing substantially altered acres and adding acreage with a high level of roadless characteristics.

In addition, it removes existing ski areas from the roadless inventory and accommodates temporary roads for underground coal mining on 20,000 acres in the North Fork Valley for purposes such as surface methane vents. It also provides special protections for the headwaters of cutthroat trout streams.

The proposal comes in response to a revised state-specific roadless rule petition submitted by Colorado last year. The state began pursuing its own roadless initiative in 2005 and has contended it’s better off with its own rule with strong roadless area protections but also the flexibility to meet its unique circumstances. Some environmental groups have argued the state should simply follow the 2001 national rule.

That rule’s fate remains unclear following conflicting court decisions.

“The Forest Service cares deeply about protecting Colorado’s roadless areas,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said today in a news release. “Through collaboration, I believe we have developed a proposal that will afford better, lasting protection to these treasured areas, and we welcome additional comments in order to develop a successful approach for conservation of this special resource.”


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