Hundreds voice opinions on roadless forests
December 10, 2005
DURANGO – About 400 people attended a public meeting on whether 500,000 acres of roadless terrain in the San Juan National Forest should remain free of major roads or be opened to development.The meeting Friday was one of seven set by a state task force created after President Bush announced a policy in May that scuttled a Clinton-era rule banning new roads and development on 58.5 million acres of roadless forest.The task force, appointed by Gov. Bill Owens and legislators, will recommend whether Owens should petition to protect some or all of the more than 4 million acres of roadless public land in Colorado.Governors have until Nov. 13, 2006, to petition the U.S. Forest Service on whether development should be allowed in their states.About one-fourth of the San Juan National Forest’s 1.9 million acres are under review.”It appears (at this point) there will be no need for great road building or large-scale disturbances,” Forest Supervisor Mark Stiles said Friday.Jim Goodyear with the Colorado Division of Wildlife said that preservation of wildlife requires sound habitat management, particularly for 21 species needing particular attention. Road building, he said, fragments, contaminates or eliminates large, contiguous habitats.La Plata County Commissioner Wally White said commissioners soon will consider a resolution supporting earlier roadless rules.About 40 people, limited to one minute apiece, expressed a range of views during the public-comment portion of the meeting.Bill Shaw said off-highway vehicle users, including all-terrain vehicle riders and snowmobilers, make up 49 percent of trail users and are being shortchanged in the amount of space they can use.”We think that all current roadless areas need to be managed for diverse, environmentally sensitive recreation, including motorized travel,” Shaw said.Christi Zeller, a representative of the gas and oil industry, said drillers don’t support the concept of areas being identified as roadless, which she said is “a de facto definition of wilderness.”Zeller said roadless areas should be managed for multiple uses, including mining, logging, off-road vehicles and oil and gas.Pete Turner, a fifth-generation La Plata County resident, said roadless areas serve as a buffer for protecting wilderness areas.”Protect our landscapes,” Turner said. “We don’t need more roads.”About 500 people attended the first task force meeting in Delta last month.