Tipton’s anti-roadless, anti-wilderness stance will hurt state’s economy

While conservation activists in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District join in a statewide effort to revise the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule to preserve important roadless areas, Scott Tipton ignores the value of these lands to the western Colorado economy in favor of a radical Republican plan to eliminate 43 million acres of protected lands in the West.

Tipton signed on as a co-sponsor of the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 (H.R. 1581) that would “release wilderness study areas administered by the Bureau of Land Management that are not suitable for wilderness designation from continued management as defacto wilderness and to release inventoried roadless areas within the National Forest System that are not recommended for wilderness designation from the land use restrictions of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule and the 2005 State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area Management Rule.”

The legislation ignores the fact that the lands in question are now protected because they have been found to be “suitable for wilderness designation.” Its purpose is to end the creation and protection of wilderness and roadless areas by wiping out decades of public lands management principles.

The bill directs the BLM to release wilderness study areas from special protection to be managed “in accordance with multiple use and sustained yield provisions.” It prohibits the Secretary of Interior from issuing a national regulation directing how the released lands will be managed.

U.S. Forest Service roadless areas that have not been designated as wilderness or were not recommended for wilderness designation as part of the second Roadless Area and Review Evaluation (1977) would lose protection. These areas would be managed under the authority of the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960.

Finally, H.R.1581 would terminate the 2001 rule that protects inventoried roadless areas and the 2005 state petition rule that allowed Colorado to develop its own roadless protection plan.

Tipton’s support of this ideologically-driven GOP plan jeopardizes an important sector of the Colorado economy. These special areas, attracting visitors from all over the nation and world to experience the Colorado mountains, rivers and canyons, are vital to the state’s active outdoor recreation economy.

“Inventoried roadless areas play an especially important role in outdoor recreation: offering close to home back country landscapes that support a range of recreational enjoyment,” states the Outdoor Industry Association.

According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, outdoor recreation contributes over $10 billion annually to the Colorado economy. It supports 107,000 jobs — many on the Western Slope — and generates nearly $500 million in annual state tax revenue.

Retail sales and services in Colorado account for $7.6 billion, or four percent of the gross state product.

Having opted out of the 2001 Roadless Rule, Colorado is adopting its own version of roadless protection. Unfortunately, I believe the present Forest Service proposal grants significantly less protection to Colorado roadless areas than the federal rule would.

Headed by Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Mountain Club, and Colorado Wildlife Federation, a coalition of nine conservation groups have mobilized a statewide “Colorado Deserves More” campaign to press the Forest Service not to give Colorado’s roadless areas second class protection.

According to their assessments, 64 percent of Colorado’s roadless areas qualify for the “upper tier,” or the top level of protection.

The proposed Colorado Roadless Rule only allots 13 percent of roadless areas “upper tier” status, according to the Colorado Deserves More website. The coalition claims that “half or more” of the state’s roadless areas should be in the “upper tier” if the Colorado rule is to equal the federal standard.

As former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said in Washington last week, “The Congress, led by the House ... has declared war on our land, water and natural resources.”

Tipton has chosen the wrong side. He should listen to his constituents and help stabilize the Colorado economy by assuring the state continues to benefit from a strong outdoor recreation industry centered on our irreplaceable roadless and wilderness areas.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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