Roadless Area Task Force to meet with public | AspenTimes.com
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Roadless Area Task Force to meet with public

Joel Stonington
Roadless areas proponent Aron Ralston explores terrain outside of Carbondale. Mount Sopris looms beyond. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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The Bush administration has invited individual states to tell it what to do about designated roadless areas, and the state of Colorado has taken it to the people. The state convened the 13-member Roadless Area Task Force, which has been holding public meetings during the last few months about whether to build roads and open national forest areas around the state to development.

The Roadless Area Task Force will hold a public meeting about the White River National Forest from 5-8:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. The public comment part of the meeting likely will begin around 7.”This is the public’s one opportunity to have an impact,” said Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of Wilderness Workshop. “It’s critical that people get out there, be seen and be heard at the hearing. The more people that participate in this process up front, the greater accountability there will be later in the process.”The White River National Forest has more than 640,000 acres of inventoried roadless areas. Areas near Aspen include Red Mountain, Hunter, Burnt Mountain and Maroon East. Many are near wilderness areas, such as Wildcat Mountain, which runs along the north side of the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule first banned new roads in the areas. The law in 2001 followed an exhaustive public process showing support from 95 percent of those who submitted comments. In May 2005, the Bush administration revised the rule so that governors must petition the federal Department of Agriculture to reinstate previous restrictions. Because the whole process is based on recommendations, there is some question about whether Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and people in Washington, D.C., will actually take the process seriously.

“Presumably [Owens] would honor this process and forward the task force’s recommendation unaltered and unfiltered to D.C.,” Shoemaker said. “I’ve seen evidence in the past where … his administration has a history of squelching opinions. There’s some accountability in the state Legislature so those type of shenanigans can’t go on.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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