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News for Norther Colorado and the world

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

State News: Fed Calls 'Timeout,' Creates New Wrinkle for Roadless Areas

The fate of Colorado’s roadless National Forest areas has been uncertain in recent years, and now the Obama Administration has called for a “timeout.” A directive announced last week from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack provides interim protection for more than 4 million acres of National Forest land in Colorado until a clear policy can be worked out.

The Forest Service, during the final days of the Bush administration, had been trying to push through a special roadless rule for Colorado that many environmentalists, including Pete Kolbenschlag with the Pew Environment Group, say would have left the door open for development in some of the state’s most pristine places.

“This decision from Secretary Vilsack shows there’s no hurry to complete any rule in Colorado. What matters is that we get it right for Colorado,” Kolbenschlag said.

Many parts of the proposed Colorado rule undermine roadless area protection, Kolbenschlag said, including “new oil and gas development, new coal mining, new reservoirs, logging far from communities.”

Jane Danowitz, public lands director for Pew, said plenty of national forest lands are open to logging, mining or drilling, so it’s important to balance that with protection for remaining roadless areas.

“The economic engine in many locations is the landscape, and protecting that landscape provides a substantial and sustainable community,” Danowitz said.

Colorado’s draft roadless rule leaves the door open to new oil and gas drilling and other forms of development in national forests. Kolbenschlag said he’d like to see a return to the protections of the 2001 Clinton-era roadless rule. That rule was challenged by the Bush administration, and the decisions have been held up in court for years. Thursday’s directive from the Agriculture Department requires secretarial approval for any road construction and timber harvesting in roadless areas.

More information on the Colorado Roadless Rule is available at www.tr.im/mJkg.

— Colorado News Connection

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