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CSCUSA on Track with Colorado Roadless Rule

At the end of his presidency in 2001, President Bill Clinton issued a nationwide Roadless Rule that covered 58 million acres and limited road building and tree removal in those areas. That rule was overturned by President George W. Bush who then invited individual states to submit their own Rules.

In 2005, Colorado created a stakeholder taskforce and started the process to develop a Rule specific to our state. Colorado Ski Country USA is proud to have been a part of the Colorado Roadless Task Force which established the framework for todays Colorado Roadless Rule. (Photo by Dan Sweeney)DSC_0013

An original Colorado Roadless Rule was developed in 2006 and allowed logging and roads deep in backcountry roadless” areas in order to combat the risk of wildfire. It also allowed exceptions for ranching and gas drilling. Conservationists said the original plan would have allowed too much logging so Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked Ritter to try again on the Colorado Roadless Rule.DSC_0114

After three presidents and two Colorado governors since Clintons initial Roadless Rule issuance, Gov. Bill Ritter submitted a rule to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday. Colorado Ski Country USA applauds Governor Bill Ritter for moving the Colorado Roadless Rule forward for approval from the US Forest Service.

Todays Rule is based on the 2001 Clinton rule. It covers 4.2 million acres of forests in Colorado but it includes exceptions for ski resorts statewide. The Rule thoughtfully addresses difficult issues unique to Colorado, striking a careful balance between safeguarding the environment, mitigating the threat of wildfires, allowing important coal mining operations to continue, and protecting the future of ski areas.

photo by Dan Sweeney

photo by Dan Sweeney

It addresses the limited but important acreage in Colorado where the conflicting management needs of ski areas and roadless areas overlap. The Rule respects wildlife values while allowing this acreage to be considered for future expansion at existing ski areas. Nearly 8,000 acres included in the Rule overlaps with ski resorts.

The next step is for the U.S. Forest Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture – to start a new Environmental Impact Statement on the Colorado plan, which will include a chance for the public to comment. It could be a year before the federal government finishes the plan.

Photo by Dan Sweeney

Photo by Dan Sweeney

CSCUSA and its members will petition the Forest Service to finalize the Colorado Rule so that it can be implemented as soon as possible.

Other than Colorado, only Idaho has pursued a state-specific rule.