Colorado’s roadless rule debate: How did we get here?

Posted: May 8, 2011

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Roadless areas are not quite wilderness, but they’re not quite freely open to development either. They’re somewhere in between, particularly in Colorado, where the fate of roadway-free, undeveloped national forest land has been rancorously contested for a decade and could soon end up with a management scheme entirely unique to the state.

On April 14, the U.S. Forest Service and the state of Colorado unveiled a final draft of a federal rule that will govern how more than 4 million acres of roadless land in Colorado’s national forests are managed. The Forest Service is asking for public feedback on the draft rule through July 14, with the feds’ final blessing expected sometime late this year or in early 2012.

If the Forest Service finalizes the rule, it would mean roadless areas in Colorado will probably get different treatment than similar roadless areas elsewhere in the country. The Colorado rule involves two different levels of roadless area protection, one keeping the land more wild than the other, while allowing some logging of trees killed by mountain pine beetles and some rights-of-way for oil, natural gas, coal and ski area development.


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