Roadless rules get once-over

MONTROSE — A plan for managing Colorado’s roadless national forest land fell short of allaying the suspicions of many who attended its introduction Wednesday in the Montrose Pavilion. The plan encouraged others, however, who said it represented a stride toward favorable management goals.

“It looks pretty darned good,” Andrea Robinsong, public-lands committee chairwoman for the Western Colorado Congress, said after the unveiling of what is known as the proposed Colorado roadless rule.

The U.S. Forest Service is collecting comments on the proposed rule, which would guide the management of 4.2 million acres of national forests in Colorado.

Not so pleased was 70-year-old Roy Selby, who attended the meeting on a scooter. The rule, Selby said, appears to violate the Americans With Disabilities Act by making it more difficult to visit and hunt the land he has prowled for 56 years.

“They’re trying to eliminate me from getting out in the woods,” Selby said to the applause of many of the 140 or so people who attended the meeting, which was intended to inform people so they could make written comments to the Forest Service about the rule.

Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Rick Cables urged Selby to file a comment in writing, noting Selby was the first person to raise disabilities-act issues in connection with the proposed forest rule.

The Agriculture Department is to issue a final rule later this year. If it accepts the proposed rule, it would be the second state-specific rule for roadless areas. Idaho has its own rule.

The proposed Colorado roadless rule would differ markedly from the national rule in several ways.

One provision of the rule would recognize 20,000 acres in the North Fork coal mining area, allowing the mining to continue with construction of temporary roads to build and provide access to vents needed to vent methane gas.

Another provision would remove about 8,000 acres within ski area boundaries from roadless designation.

Both those provisions have run into opposition from environmental organizations.

The Forest Service also is proposing that about 562,000 of the 4.2 million acres be placed in what it terms an “upper tier” roadless designation.

No roads could be built, even for fire suppression or habitat improvement, in upper-tier roadless lands. While those lands are in steep and frequently inaccessible locations, they aren’t necessarily high elevation or even remote from human development.

Some environmental organizations, however, contend the Forest Service fell short with its proposed upper-tier roadless designation.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited want 2.6 million acres designated as upper-tier roadless lands.

The Roosevelt partnership worked in concert with hunters and anglers across the state, and other conservation organizations to find areas frequented by sportsmen, Nick Payne, Colorado field representative, said.

Payne and Aaron Kindle, Colorado field coordinator for Trout Unlimited, are urging people to write the Forest Service in support of designating 2.6 million acres as upper tier.

The Western Colorado Congress hasn’t decided whether to support the alternative sought by those organizations, Robinsong said, but she praised the proposal for excluding the Currant Creek area from the North Fork coal area.

Many environmental organizations have misgivings about the Colorado rule because it includes about 13 percent of roadless lands in the upper tier while a similar tier in Idaho includes 52 percent of affected lands, said Peter Kolbenschlag of Paonia.

Denny Behrens of Grand Junction, however, said the inclusion of the upper tier in Colorado could pose a threat to communities, roads, water and power lines because of the prohibition on tree cutting, road construction and fire suppression, terming the proposal “unbelievable.”

But it’s not yet set in stone, Cables told the crowd, urging them to write comments “if you believe community protection should be a higher priority.”

Comments can be as through July 14.


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