National Forest roadless review begins
August 19, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Colorado residents have another chance to review a proposed management plan for roadless areas in national forests across the state during a series of open houses beginning this week and running through Sept. 11.
The closest meetings for Summit County citizens to participate are on Aug. 21 at the Marriot Denver West, 1717 Denver West Blvd. in Golden and Sept. 10 in the Hotel Colorado, 526 Pine St. in Glenwood Springs.
“We encourage the public to learn more about the proposed rule,” said Mike King, deputy director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Public comments responding to the proposed rule … will be used to help shape the rule and environmental impact statement.”
The proposed roadless rule covers about 58 million acres across the country, including 4.1 million acres in Colorado and 60,000 acres in Summit County.
The current version up for review is based on input from a Colorado task force appointed by former Gov. Bill Owens. It protects most roadless areas in the state, but conservation groups claim it leaves too many loopholes for logging and energy development.
Forest Service officials emphasized that the meetings are not public hearings. The format is intended to present information on the plan and enable citizens to speak with rangers and other officials one-on-one. Written public comments will be accepted.
Wrangling over the roadless rule goes back to 2000, when the Clinton administration enacted a version that gave strong protection to roadless areas.
Under former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, the agency said building new roads made little sense given the huge maintenance backlog for existing roads. Roadless areas were also identified as critical zones for wildlife and as buffers against invasive species.
The Bush administration promptly overturned the Clinton roadless rule and replaced it with a state-by-state petitioning process aimed at giving local stakeholders more a say in national forest management.
That process resulted in the Colorado version of the rule currently under public scrutiny.
At the same time, the Clinton rule was rejected by a federal judge in Wyoming. A few years later, a federal judge in California upheld the Clinton rule. Last week, the judge in Wyoming once again ruled that the Clinton roadless plan violated federal environmental regulations.
The upshot is that nobody knows exactly which rule is in effect. Officials with the White River National Forest, covering national forest lands in Summit County, said their forest plan includes guidelines for managing roadless areas that violate neither version.