Roadless backcountry vital to hunters, anglers
Dear Editor:Roadless areas (along with designated wilderness) represent the gold standard for wildlife habitat and backcountry hunting/angling grounds. Unfortunately, after nearly a decade of protection under the National Roadless Rule, Colorado’s roadless areas could soon be managed to a weaker standard. The proposed Colorado Rule, recently released by the Forest Service for public comment, falls short of being as protective as the National Roadless Rule.As Colorado Backcountry Hunter & Angler (BHA) member Bill Sustrich says, “In the simplest terms, without suitable habitat we will have no game; without game, we will have no hunting; without hunting, a precious heritage of our past will be lost forever.” Apparently, the folks pushing this watered-down Colorado Rule don’t fully understand that part of keeping good, healthy big game herds (in particular, elk) on national forests and other public lands is to make sure they have ample secure habitat – big wild country with large blocks of land without motorized disturbance. They may not know that high road densities also decrease the quality of streamside habitat, which is detrimental for wild trout and reduces angling opportunities. Maybe they’re unaware that Colorado’s roadless areas comprise more than 58 percent of native cutthroat trout habitat and more than 50 percent of public land in the 15 most-hunted game management units. That’s why hunters and anglers want Colorado’s roadless areas conserved at a level equal to, or stronger than, the protections afforded by the 2001 national rule. For the Colorado Rule to live up to the national rule standard, the acreage of roadless areas designated as “upper tier” must be expanded and development loopholes closed. In my “backyard,” the Pike-San Isabel National Forest, there is some 774,600 acres of roadless land, and even though 312,900 acres (40 percent) of that was proposed by hunters and anglers and others for upper tier protection, the Forest Service’s summary chart lists Pike-San Isabel upper tier acres at zero. Across the state, millions of acres of such high quality roadless areas aren’t being considered for this protection: Only 11 percent of the state’s Inventoried Roadless Areas are proposed for the stronger upper tier protections. On top of that, loopholes in those protections put even these few roadless areas at risk from oil and gas development, pipelines, and transmission lines. And the risk is even greater for roadless areas that would not be managed under an upper tier, where logging would be allowed at least a mile and a half into roadless areas. Lifelong Colorado hunter/angler Bill Sustrich hit the nail on the head when he said, “From my own observations, I have seen nothing yet created by mankind that offers the degree of habitat protection that is achieved through wilderness [and roadless] designation.” As Bill’s hunting brethren Theodore Roosevelt said, “The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will.” Take a few minutes and submit comments to the Forest Service explaining the importance of roadless backcountry areas to our hunting/angling heritage: COComments@fsroadless.org.David Lien Co-Chair, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
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