Stay on track with Colorado roadless rule

Ten years after President Bill Clinton designated more than 50 million acres of national forest lands as roadless — including more than 4 million in Colorado — and six years after Colorado began developing its own management plan for those lands, it appears that a final version of the rule pertaining to Colorado’s roadless lands may be nearing completion.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service released a draft of a rule to govern some 4.2 million acres of designated roadless areas in national forests in Colorado. We believe it is a reasonable plan that takes into consideration the road needs of coal mines in the North Fork Valley, the requirements surrounding ski areas and the importance of allowing some road building to stem wildfires.

It is no surprise that a number of environmental groups oppose the draft rule. They have adamantly opposed allowing Colorado to adopt its own rule. Instead, they want only the original rule adopted by Clinton in late 2001.

But, as we have noted repeatedly over the years, the legal status of the Clinton rule remains up in the air, with conflicting federal court rulings about its validity from two different jurisdictions.

Additionally, the Colorado rule was originally drafted with input from a wide variety of Colorado citizens, including representatives of environmental groups. Although it has been modified several times since, it remains a sensible compromise for protecting vast tracts of relatively untrammeled forest lands, but recognizing where some concession should be made for human activity.

The draft rule released by the Forest Service is based on the Colorado rule and it continues this approach.


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