Colorado wants revised plan for roadless areas |

Colorado wants revised plan for roadless areas

DENVER – Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter says the state is drawing up changes to its draft plan for managing roadless areas and will seek additional public comment and review this summer.

Ritter told the U.S. Forest Service on Monday that Colorado has unique needs because it has to combat a bark beetle epidemic and promote and protect its travel and natural resource industries.

The proposed Colorado roadless rule, published in July 2008, would create a permanent conservation framework for 4.1 million acres of roadless land within the 11 national forests in the state.

Since then, the state has been working with the Forest Service and the public on improvements to the draft, updating the roadless inventory to add approximately 160,000 acres of high-quality roadless forests.

“From my first day in office, I have worked to provide lasting protections for Colorado’s backcountry and roadless heritage,” Ritter said.

Dave Petersen, Colorado field director for the conservation group Trout Unlimited, said politicians and environmentalists have been debating the issues since 2001 and the majority of people have backed stricter regulations.

“I think in one way, an additional public comment period is good, but nothing is going to change. Sporting groups said this is a disaster, it would give us one of the weakest protections in the country,” he said.

Ritter said the goal is to balance the need to protect mountain communities and water infrastructure at the edge of roadless areas from fire risk with the overall goal of conserving roadless values.

He said the Colorado recommendations would also eliminate a loophole in the 2001 rule that allows pipelines to bisect roadless areas. Additional revisions by the state also would eliminate new roads for grazing.

Conservation, hunting and angling groups recently asked Colorado’s congressional delegation to urge Ritter to delay completion of the state’s plan while the Obama administration considers a long-term policy for 58 million acres of roadless forests nationwide.

They contend the plan would leave Colorado’s roadless areas the least protected nationwide because it would allow temporary roads for wildfire prevention, expansion of existing coal mining and some utility infrastructure.

Some ski area terrain would be permanently removed from the inventory of roadless areas.

Colorado began crafting its own roadless rule amid legal battles over a Clinton-era ban on new roads in national forests.

Ritter called a state plan an insurance policy as different federal courts upheld and overturned the road-building ban and a Bush administration policy that opened some of the land to development.

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