State roadless panel to receive federal funding
SUMMIT COUNTY – With funding assured for a state roadless task force, Gov. Bill Owens has announced his appointees to a bipartisan group that will determine the future of 4.43 million acres designated as roadless by the U.S. Forest Service. That includes about 59,000 acres in the Dillon Ranger District, covering national forest lands in Summit County.According to a press release, Gov. Owens appointed Joseph A. Duda, Fort Collins, with the Colorado State Forest Service; State Rep. Diane Hoppe, Sterling; State Rep. Josh Penry, Grand Junction; and Montrose County Commissioner David A. Ubell.Two other members of the 13-member task force have been appointed by mutual agreement of the governor, the Speaker of the House and the Senate president; Jim Lochhead, former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and John Swartout, chairman of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). The remaining members will be appointed by the leadership of the House and Senate.The task force will hold hearings around the state and then make a recommendation within 16 months to Owens as to the future designation and management of 4.43 million acres of areas designated for roadless status in Colorado. The Forest Service announced last week it would grant the $115,000 requested by the state to cover the costs of the roadless review process.”We are pleased to provide assistance to Gov. Owens in order to facilitate our cooperative conservation efforts with Colorado,” said Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey. Formation of the state task force stems from the long and complex battle over National Forest roadless areas. The Forest Service, under the Clinton administration, adopted a roadless rule in 2000 that was hailed by environmentalists as a far-reaching conservation initiative, but it was panned by critics as a federal land grab, to the exclusion of local interests.Bush appointees to the Department of Agriculture moved quickly to overturn the Clinton roadless rule, ultimately replacing it with the state-by-state petitioning process now in place. In the most recent twist, Wyoming, Arizona and California have all sued the federal government over that latest version of the roadless rule, claiming that the Forest Service didn’t follow required procedures. That latest lawsuit, filed in August, comes while the fate of the original Clinton rule is still at issue in several other pending lawsuits.Regardless of the uncertain legal status of the federal roadless rule, Colorado will proceed with its own review process, said Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Dawn Taylor Owens. At issue is what sort of uses will be permitted on those parcels, including logging, oil and gas drilling and ski area activities. Locally, elected officials have said they want to make sure that wildfire mitigation efforts are not hindered by potential roadless designations. Public lands watchdogs, however, point out that the original Clinton rule included provisions for wildfire mitigation. Conservation advocates are concerned that the state-by-state review process will lead to a massive rollback of roadless protection, while supporters of the latest version say the review will give local interests a chance for input.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228 or at email@example.com.
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