I have not seen coverage in the Pilot or the Today on an issue of great importance to anyone who appreciates our national parks and monuments, designated wilderness areas, national wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands for their natural qualities and the relative absence of impact by motorized vehicles and roads. Articles in the Denver Post have examined the controversy on Revised Statute 2477, a 19th century federal law that is being resurrected and pushed forward in Utah and Colorado by Gov. Bill Owens and State Natural Resources Director Greg Walcher. Ultimately, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and the Bush administration have reopened consideration of this statute. One hundred members of the U.S. Congress wrote Norton on April 16, expressing grave concern over permitting more roads on federal land and urging the Interior Department to suspend such activity until Congress addresses the issue. There is concern by many in Congress and the broader public that this obscure and obsolete statute could be interpreted to allow roads to be constructed within protected federal lands where now only paths or cow trails exist. Their request has fallen on deaf ears, as have those expressed by the public.
In January, the Moffat County Commissioners unveiled a map claiming more than 2,000 miles of routes, including trails and paths, that could become maintained roads. This includes 240 miles in Dinosaur National Monument, 53 miles in Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, and miles within every wilderness study area, citizen proposed wilderness and Forest Service roadless area in the county. This past spring an on-the-ground survey conducted by interested individuals from Routt and Moffat counties found many trails and roads identified in the Moffat County map were nonexistent.
Unfortunately, it's probably not unusual for politicians to try to find nonlegislative ways and methods outside of public awareness to accomplish their agendas. What is becoming increasingly alarming to me is the extent to which this is occurring with the administration currently in control in Washington, D.C. Weekly, if not daily, I'm hearing about what has been accomplished, without due public process or legislative review, to undermine environmental protections, to withdraw support for social and cultural programs, and to side-step civil liberties. I urge the Pilot & Today to increase its coverage of issues such as R.S. 2477 and other attempts to bypass public review. Some of the columns on the editorial page address these issues, but we need to see more. I hope any readers who have concerns similar to mine will write or call their public officials and make their voices heard. Related to R.S. 2477, write Gov. Owens at 135 State Capitol, Denver, CO 80203-1792.