David Lien: Roadless rules aid wildlife
The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which serves to protect some 50 million acres of federal roadless lands across the United States. Colorado has about 4.2 million of these acres in 363 separate roadless areas.As hunters and anglers know from “boots-on-the-ground” experience, national forest roadless areas, commonly known as backcountry, provide some of America’s last undisturbed fish and wildlife habitat and the finest publicly accessible hunting and fishing in the country. Too many roads increase big-game vulnerability to excessive motorized vehicle disturbance and can result in shorter seasons and fewer available tags for hunters.High road densities also decrease the quality of streamside habitat, which is detrimental for wild trout and reduces angling opportunities. In Colorado, roadless areas comprise more than 58 percent of native cutthroat trout habitat and more than 50 percent of the public land in the 15 most-hunted game management units (GMUs). And among these 15 GMUs, 12 of them each contain over 100,000 acres of roadless public land.In addition, 92 percent of all national forest lands in Colorado already lie within one mile of a road. There are currently more than 17,000 miles of roads in our national forests, and the Forest Service has stated they only need 20 percent of the current road system.In 2005, 100 biologists and game managers with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) examined wildlife values in the more than 300 roadless areas in national forests across the state. Unanimously, they opposed road building in every area. As hunters and anglers (and their DOW brethren) know from firsthand experience, roadless areas in Colorado are invaluable, and without affording them lasting protections our sporting heritage will struggle to survive. We’re glad U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agrees.
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