Door open to revisit roadless policy
The time is right to draft a tough policy to protect all the roadless areas in Colorado.Our state’s policy should mirror the roadless rules adopted by the Clinton Administration in 2001 – which saved most roadless areas from development – but was repealed by Bush in 2005. Bush’s development-happy policy is still in effect, and required Colorado to create a list of land it would ask the Federal government to protect. The list drafted by former Gov. Owens involved months of regional task force meetings, and was considered a satisfying compromise by environmentalists, private industry and motorized groups, but it was superseding a process Clinton facilitated that involved two years of public hearings and 1.6 million comments.On Gov. Ritter’s watch, it’s time to truly protect our land and capitalize on a recent decision by a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco, which overturned Bush’s repeal of Clinton’s roadless rules because, the judge said, Bush did not perform the necessary environmental analysis.While much time and energy was spent in developing Owens’ petition, the process was managed by an administration that has showed little concern for the conservation of public land. Clinton’s ideas better protected wildlife and limited motorized vehicles in the National Forest, both musts for any legitimate conservation ruling.Gov. Ritter would be best served to rewrite Colorado’s plan to protect all our roadless areas – the last of true wilderness in the state – from any types of development, and only allow small, local exemptions recommended by the regional task forces (i.e. roads that could be used to buffer towns from large wildfires).The best case scenario would avoid large-scale exemptions that had alienated private industry and environmentalists, such as 10,000 acres of forest land leased by ski areas, and 80,000 acres used by the North Fork Valley Mine in western Colorado.
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