State roadless rule finalized

The seven-year process to create a rule governing roadless areas in Colorado’s national forest lands will come to an end today.

The rule will exempt Colorado from the federal roadless law, 2001’s Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which prevents road-building on millions of acres of pristine national forest land across the country.

The finalized version of the Colorado-specific roadless rule will allow some exemptions from the federal rule, including weakening bans on road protections in some locations in the state for activities such as ski-resort and coal-mine expansions and the thinning of bark-beetle-damaged trees.

About a quarter of the 4.2 million acres covered by the Colorado rule will receive more protection than they would under the federal rule, however.

Though the final draft was issued in May, the record of decision will be published today, marking the formal conclusion of the rule-making process.

As was the case throughout the process, reactions to the news Monday were mixed. State officials, mining interests and others have praised the rule for preventing a “one-size-fits-all” rule from being applied to the state.

Conservationists, however, remained unhappy with both the specifics and broader implications of the rule.

It’s “simply not needed” since two separate federal courts have already held up the federal rule and it would be better to have a “consistent, national approach to management,” said Michael Freeman, an attorney with Earthjustice’s Denver office, who has worked to defend the federal rule in court.

In terms of challenging the rule, Freeman said, “We’re looking at all options and no decisions have been made yet.”

Some hunters’ and anglers’ groups were pleased with the additional protections for endangered cutthroat trout and other restrictions on backcountry water projects, which were added since the draft’s release.

Last month the Colorado Mining Association, several other mining groups and eight states continued their decade-long quest to repeal the 2001 federal rule by appealing a federal court decision upholding the rule to the U.S. Supreme Court.


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