Now is the time to speak up about local forests |

Now is the time to speak up about local forests

Aspen Times writer

This week the Pitkin County commissioners jumped into a huge debate by taking a stance against President Bush’s plan to rescind the Roadless Rule signed by former President Clinton. The outcome of this struggle will affect the entire Intermountain West, and the commissioners deserve credit for trying to protect the federal lands within their jurisdiction.Clinton’s decision to designate millions of publicly owned acres off-limits to road-building and motorized vehicles followed several years of public comment. It was an open and fair process that had broad public support, but now the Bush Administration is unraveling those protections. We agree with the county commissioners that Bush’s plan to eliminate the roadless restrictions and allow governors to determine the policies for each state is a mistake, because it will likely mean more roads and more oil and gas drilling on federal land in Colorado. Even Pitkin County, largely insulated to date from the Western Slope drilling boom, may well have the first exploratory holes punched in its soil in the near future.Energy companies have earned a reputation as bullying, inconsiderate neighbors, and we see no reason why they’d clean up their act upon entering the Roaring Fork Valley. The recent $371,200 fine levied by the state against Encana Oil & Gas for allowing a gas leak and contaminating water supplies south of Silt is just one example of the trouble this valley could face.However, The Aspen Times has already spoken out in favor of the Roadless Rule, and against President Bush’s rush to boost oil and gas production. Today we want simply to encourage valley residents to be heard on this issue, because time is running out.Regardless of how you might feel about Bush, Clinton or roadless areas, the deadline for public comment is Sept. 14. Some of this country’s biggest special interests, from oil companies to off-road enthusiasts to environmental groups, are all weighing in heavily on the Roadless Rule, and if actual people hope to be heard, they’d better speak up now.Nationwide, the management of some 58.5 million acres is at stake. In the White River National Forest, there are 640,000 acres of inventoried roadless area, 105,000 of which are in Pitkin County.It’s your land. Make yourself heard. Send comments to: Content Analysis Team, Attn: Forest Service, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122. Or fax comments to (801) 517-1014.