Roadless rule variations affect recreation, energy |

Roadless rule variations affect recreation, energy

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

It’s hard to follow the twists and turns in the eight-year roadless saga, but the final version will have on-the-ground consequences for management of the inventoried roadless areas on the White River National Forest.

Conservation advocate Pete Kolbenschlag said the difference between the two rules could be critical for western parts of the White River National Forest, where about 100 new oil and gas leases have been approved since the 2001 rule was issued.

The plan put forward by the Clinton administration in the 2001 plan would still allow for drilling but would block associated road-building, requiring energy companies to use directional drilling from outside roadless areas.

“If the state-based rule is adopted with a new effective date, those leases could go forward,” Kolbenschlag said. That would mean new road-building incursions into roadless areas, he said.

Colorado Wild’s Rocky Smith said the state-based rule creates broad exemptions for forest health logging.

“It’s much weaker than the 2001 rule,” Smith said.

The Clinton version enabled the Forest Service to do wildfire mitigation close to communities, where it’s most useful.

The state-based rule opens the door for logging in the backcountry, which could require construction of many miles of new roads, he said.

The state version of the rule would also take about 3,000 acres of land allocated to ski areas out of the roadless inventory. The Clinton rule still allowed for ski area use, but required the Forest Service to protect the roadless characteristics of the areas.

Under the state rule, the Forest Service and resorts wouldn’t have to consider the roadless status of those areas as they plan ski area expansions, Smith said.

Colorado’s National Forest roadless areas deserve to be managed under a national rule with the same standards of protection as in other states. Kolbenschlag concluded.

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