Ritter submits revamped roadless rule

Gov. Bill Ritter today submitted to the federal government a revamped version of a state proposal for managing 4.2 million acres of roadless national forests in Colorado.

Compared to the state’s 2009 draft revised rule, the revised state petition seeks narrower exceptions from the 2001 national roadless rule for fuel reduction projects near communities threatened by wildfire, the state said in a news release.

The proposal submitted today continues to seek exemptions to allow for ski area expansions, and for drilling of methane vents to allow for expansion of existing coal mines in the North Fork Valley near Paonia.

It would ban road-building for future oil and gas leasing and would close a loophole in the 2001 rule that leaves roadless areas vulnerable to major construction projects, the state says.

The state originally pursued its own rule due to a court challenge of the national rule. It submitted its first proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2006, and in 2008 the U.S. Forest Service published a draft state rule for public review. The Forest Service has indicated to the state that subsequent changes in the rule will require preparation of a revised draft environmental impact statement on the state proposal.

“This is simply a better rule for Colorado,” Ritter said in the news release. “Our roadless areas will get stronger protections and we will get the targeted flexibility we need to address Colorado’s unique circumstances, such as the pine beetle epidemic, the ski industry and Western Slope coal mines.”


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