Help protect the forest
November 14, 2005
How many of us live in the Roaring Fork Valley because of the forests? The White River National Forest is what brought me to town, and I am certainly not the only one. The valley is full of skiers, snowboarders, hikers, hunters, anglers, bird watchers and wildlife viewers. The quality of life in Carbondale depends upon the beauty of its surrounding forests. Lucky for us, the citizens of the Roaring Fork Valley have the power to keep those forests safe from new logging, mining and oil developments that threaten to invade our last pristine areas in the White River National Forest. It is not often that we are given the explicit opportunity to participate in the creation of new forest protection laws. The Roadless Area Review Task Force will decide the fate of Colorado’s most pristine and endangered forest areas over the next year. The criteria? Public opinion.Background on the Roadless RuleThe Roadless Rule is the most popular piece of legislation ever. More people have written comments of support for the Roadless Rule than for any other rule in our country’s history. Originally passed in 2001, it protected 58.5 million acres of our national unroaded forests from new road-building. Despite overwhelming public support for the legislation, President Bush repealed the Roadless Rule in 2005 and replaced it with a process requiring governors to petition the Department of Agriculture in order to seek roadless protections. In response, the Colorado Legislature created the Roadless Areas Review Task Force to advise Gov. Bill Owens in this process. The bipartisan Task Force, composed of 13 members, will make its decision based upon public comment. Seven meetings across the state of Colorado will be held to gauge public support for roadless areas. On June 21, the Roaring Fork Valley will host one of those meetings. Task force members will evaluate the importance of protecting roadless areas in the White River National Forest based upon responses from the Roaring Fork Valley community. “The future of roadless areas in the White River National Forest will significantly affect the economy and lifestyle of the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Steve Smith, a member of the task force. “That is why we are anxious to hear from local citizens, businesses and organizations on this important decision.”The areas under questions are the 1.025 million acres in the White River National Forest that have been assigned by the Forest Service as “roadless areas.” These are the last places in the valley’s national forest system that remain free from roads but are not protected as designated wilderness areas. Roadless areas ensure the maintenance of high water quality by serving as the source for most of Colorado’s municipal watersheds. Roadless areas also provide habitat for endangered species that require unbroken tracts of land and for big-game species such as elk and deer. The danger of new roadsRoads damage forests, streams and wetlands. New roads would reduce water quality, making our drinking water less drinkable and our streams less fishable. Invasive species are brought in with the production of roads and thrive around them. Roads bring pollution, noise and habitat destruction into the last areas where sensitive native species and endangered animal species can still survive. Moreover, new roads allow large-scale logging and mining projects, which threaten our last undeveloped forest areas. New logging and mining projects have already been proposed for the roadless areas in the White River National Forest. Protection of these areas as roadless is the best defense we have against these threats.A call for supportThe Colorado Mountain Club and the Wilderness Workshop are working in the Crystal and Roaring Fork Valleys to gather support for roadless protection. Local businesses and organizations in the valley are signing endorsements for the Roadless Rule. If you want to sign on your business or organization, contact Rebecca Van Damm with the information below. CMC and Wilderness Workshop will also be organizing a Citizen Roadless Campaign Kickoff Meeting to discuss roadless protection and how residents of the valley can protect the White River’s last roadless areas on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Carbondale Town Hall. For information about this meeting or other ways to promote roadless protection, contact: Rebecca Van Damm at Rebecca@greencorps.org.Rebecca Van Damm is Roadless Campaign field organizer for Green Corps, which trains young people to organize and lead environmental campaigns.