TRCP Praises Decision to Extend Roadless Rule Review

Sportsmen had called for extra time to revise Colorado management plan;
new timetable allows state to address concerns of sportsmen, industry

WASHINGTON – The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today commended a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the timetable for finalization of the Colorado roadless rule, a plan for management of the state’s national forest roadless areas. The federal announcement responded to a state request to prolong the rule-making process so that stakeholder concerns could be addressed in the final plan. A range of diverse interests has charged that the draft rule fails to responsibly administer Colorado’s more than 4 million acres of backcountry.

“All along, the TRCP has maintained that the Colorado roadless rule can be significantly improved if adequate time and attention are dedicated to its revision,” said TRCP Roadless Initiative Manager Joel Webster. “That this fact has been recognized by state and federal decision makers gives us hope that conscientious management of Colorado’s backcountry – and the important habitat it provides fish and wildlife populations – can be attained through careful refinement of problematic language in the draft rule.”

Hunters and anglers affirm that the Colorado roadless rule can uphold healthy habitat, fish and wildlife populations and sporting traditions if common-sense revisions are made to the draft plan. Problems they highlight in the draft rule include the following:
• loose language allowing road building for power-line corridors and water projects in all of Colorado’s 4.4 million acres of backcountry;
• 70,000 acres of “gap” oil and gas leases where road building would be permitted in backcountry areas;
• removal of more than a half-million acres from Colorado’s roadless inventory – a transfer that also is questioned by the Colorado Division of Wildlife;
• the need for establishment of an “upper category” of roadless lands – setting a higher level of protective guidelines for about 1.26 million acres – in the final plan.

“Sportsmen applaud the state’s request and its approval by the federal government,” Webster continued, “but we must remain focused on the task at hand: fixing the errors in the draft Colorado rule. Governor Ritter and the U.S. Forest Service must use this extra time to rectify the plan’s problems – for the good of Colorado’s backcountry and the citizens who use and enjoy these irreplaceable landscapes.”

Colorado and Idaho both elected to develop state-specific plans for administration of roadless areas within their boundaries, with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter calling his state’s roadless rule an insurance policy in case the federal roadless rule was overturned. A recent decision by a federal judge in San Francisco limited the applicability of the 2001 federal roadless rule and effectively eliminated the state of Colorado from the rule’s oversight.

“Sportsmen gave their support to the final Idaho roadless rule, which was achieved through collaboration by the U.S. Forest Service, state authorities and other advisors,” stated Webster. “We believe that decision-makers can create a similarly strong rule for Colorado, but problems in the draft plan must be fixed first. We urge the Forest Service and state to use this extended timetable to create an improved management plan that guarantees the long-term conservation of Colorado’s backcountry.”

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions
of hunting and fishing.