Diann Ritschard: Colorado's Roadless Rule

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Routt County folks interested in the management of the Colorado's Roadless Areas should plan to attend an open house from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

The event is not a public hearing but an open house format to give people the opportunity to better understand the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule and accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Interested persons can come anytime during the evening to view materials explaining the proposed rule and DEIS, speak with specialists one on one, and provide written comments. In addition to written comments, people will have an opportunity to sit with a court recorder who will record their oral comments for inclusion in the official record.

The proposed Colorado rule and DEIS culminates ongoing, intensive, and cooperative work with the Colorado Governor's Office that began in 2005. It also represents the State of Colorado's support for a roadless area protection strategy after years of concern over the effects of the 2001 Roadless Conservation Area Rule to the State of Colorado and its residents.

The proposed rule reflects the petition that the governor of Colorado submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture's Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee. On Aug. 8, 2007, the committee recommended that the Forest Service and the State of Colorado, as cooperating agencies, develop a Colorado Roadless Rule. The collaborative effort with the state has resulted in a proposed rule that provides management direction for Colorado's inventoried roadless areas that balances roadless area conservation with economic, safety and resource management needs at the national, state, and local levels. The proposed rule:

- Conserves the natural integrity and character of Colorado roadless areas.

- The proposed rule prohibits road building and tree cutting except for limited circumstances similar to those under the 2001 Rule. The circumstances include temporary roads needed for fuels treatment to protect communities, roads needed to construct or maintain water and utility infrastructure, and temporary roads for exploration or development of the North Fork coal mining area.

- Provides stewardship flexibility to consider the following:

- Reduction of hazardous fuels, insect and disease epidemics, and potential wildfire threats to communities where necessary.

- Exploration and development of valuable energy resources such as oil, gas and coal where appropriate.

- Updates roadless area boundaries based on newer inventories. This results in roadless area boundaries that are more consistent with roadless area conservation goals.

Information about the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule is at http://roadless.fs.fed.us. Comments are due Oct. 23, 2008.

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