U.S. Forest Service Plans to Lift Roadless Area Protections


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

DENVER, Colorado, December 31, 2007 (ENS) - The Bush administration intends to remove existing legal protections from over 4.4 million acres of roadless areas in the national forests of Colorado. The U.S. Forest Service formally announced Wednesday that it is beginning a process to establish a new rule for managing Colorado's roadless areas.

This rulemaking is the result of a petition submitted by Governor Bill Ritter on behalf of the State of Colorado requesting specific regulatory protections with certain management flexibility.

The state-by-state roadless rulemaking process is a Bush administration replacement for the Clinton era Roadless Rule, that would have protected 58 million acres of inventoried roadless areas across the United States from development.

The Colorado proposal would remove roadless protections from approximately 300,000 acres of wild forestlands, and weaken them for the remaining 4.1 million acres.

The Colorado announcement follows last week’s similar announcement that the Forest Service will begin consideration of a plan to open millions of roadless acres in Idaho to logging, mining and road building.

'The Bush administration’s actions in Colorado will turn over some of America’s most pristine wildlands to industry exploitation,' said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. 'This is part of the administration’s latest strategy to erode, state by state, the protections that safeguard our public forests.

'First Idaho, now Colorado, and in a few short weeks the Forest Service plans to release a new management plan allowing roadless area logging in Alaska’s Tongass rainforest, our largest national forest. The pattern is clear - the Bush administration is trying to leave our most pristine forestlands open to corporate special interests - and it is doing it through death by a thousand cuts.'

'The purpose of the proposed Idaho Roadless Rule is to respond to the State’s petition to provide State-specific direction for the conservation and management of inventoried roadless areas within the State of Idaho,' said the Forest Service in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The federal agency says it wrote the Idaho Roadless Rule 'in response to the Idaho State Petition presented by Governor James Risch on November 29 and 30, 2006, to the Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee. While Risch has been replaced by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter, the petition stands.

'The Bush administration has spent almost seven years trying to undo the Roadless Rule. Now, while most people are home enjoying the holidays, the Forest Service is hard at work in a last effort to try to slice-up America’s wildlands one piece at a time,' said Mall.

'These wild areas represent our last, best places that must be preserved for the unique outdoor opportunities, clean drinking water, bountiful wildlife habitat, and sheer majesty they provide to local residents and visitors alike.

'Coloradans and Americans across the country want to make sure these forests are protected from the Bush administration’s last desperate attempts to help their timber, oil and gas, and mining buddies. If the administration succeeds in any of these states, our country stands to lose some of the most vibrant places within our national forests.'

Public comments concerning the scope of the Colorado analysis must be received by February 25, 2008. Comments may be sent by e-mail to COcomments@fsroadless.org.

The public comment period on Idaho Roadless Rule and Draft Environmental Impact Statement will last for 90 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. At this time the proposed rule has not been published.

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