Coal mining is flash point in roadless proposal

Accommodations for coal mining in the North Fork Valley are a point of contention in a newly proposed U.S. Forest Service roadless rule for Colorado.

The proposal, released Thursday for a 90-day, public-comment period, is designed to protect some 4.2 million acres in Colorado. But it allows some exemptions, including for temporary road building on 20,000 acres to install methane vents associated with mining. The provision would allow for expansion of existing operations.

Another exemption is for temporary roads for logging and other fuel treatments to reduce wildfire danger within a half-mile of communities.

Rick Cables, regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, noted that the coal exemption applies to a North Fork Valley industry that generates 2,200 direct and indirect jobs. The mines create $130 million in annual labor income.

Attorney Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice said the exemption “will allow 20,000 acres of our state’s remaining wild forests to be scarred with bulldozers for coal mining, a dirty energy source.”


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