Poll: Delay action on state roadless rule

A majority of Coloradans want the state to wait for a new presidential administration before deciding how to treat 4.4 million acres of roadless forest lands, according to a study released by the Pew Environment Group.

Most West Slope residents preferred to let a new administration tackle the issue of Colorado roadless lands, according to the poll, which was administered to 500 Coloradans between Aug. 18 and Aug. 24.

The results were released Tuesday.

“When voters learned that there are thousands of acres that are already leased” but have yet to be drilled, they tended to oppose moving forward with the Colorado roadless proposal, said pollster Rick Ridder, president of RBI Strategy and Research in Denver, who conducted the poll for the Pew Environment Group.

Support for moving ahead with the state roadless rule, which had been recommended by a bipartisan task force, increased among West Slope respondents in the course of taking the poll. But the movement was statistically insignificant, Ridder said.

The poll questioned 250 West Slope residents above and beyond the West Slope residents included in the statewide poll, Ridder said.

The poll was criticized by state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, who said it was aimed more at shaping public opinion than measuring it. Energy industry representatives, meanwhile, said the poll misstated the issue that respondents said was critical.

The Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee is set to review the Colorado petition for the management of the state’s roadless areas at a meeting today in Salt Lake City.

Environmental groups have criticized the Colorado petition, which was drafted by a task force appointed by former Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, and accepted by his successor, Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat,
as opening the national forests to unwanted logging, drilling and roadbuilding.

In particular, environmental organizations have said the proposal for “long-term temporary roads” that last as long as 30 years in roadless areas belies the intent to skirt requirements under the National Environmental Protection Act.

Swing respondents “learned more as they went through the survey,” Ridder said, noting that the number of respondents who said they were “strongly ” in favor of letting a new administration decide how to manage Colorado roadless areas grew slightly, from 33 percent to 36 percent, as they answered questions.

The poll showed more of a change in the “intensity factor” than in significant movement on the issue, he said.

“This is what’s called a push poll,” Penry said. “It’s called tainting.”

Penry acknowledged “some ambivalence” among residents about the Colorado proposal, but said it had garnered Owens’ and Ritter’s support.

“That underlines that it’s a sensible compromise,” he said.


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