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Roadless standards have become weaker

Dear Editor:

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service released the almost-final version of the Colorado Roadless Rule.

For the past 6 years, we and our partners in the conservation community have been trying to make the best of this unnecessary, state-



specific roadless rule. While the latest version is considerably improved over earlier drafts, it’s still disappointing.

Why disappointing? Because we already have a federal roadless rule, and it does a better job of protecting roadless areas.



The Obama administration promised that the Colorado rule would be at least as strong as the federal one, but it falls short by several objective measures.

Most important to folks here locally, it fails to explicitly prohibit road construction on “gap” leases, many of them in the Thompson Divide. These are oil and gas leases in roadless areas that were issued after the federal Roadless Rule took effect. We’ve been asking the Forest Service for years to make it clear that road building isn’t permitted on those leases, but they’ve opted out of such an explicit statement in this rule.

In addition, the almost-final Colorado Roadless Rule contains a gigantic loophole for logging in the guise of fuels reduction, and other exceptions for coal mining, utility corridors and ski-area expansion.

I say “almost-final” because the rule is subject to a 30-day final review period before publication. During this period the Wilderness Workshop will continue to push for specific changes to get the rule into a shape we can live with.

Colorado’s forests should not get second-class treatment. So, while we applaud the improvements that have been made in this rule over the years, we cannot yet support a Colorado-specific rule that manages the majority of our roadless backcountry to a weaker standard than the one which will continue to protect national forests in other states across America.

Peter Hart

Wilderness Workshop

Carbondale


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