Heritage Forests Campaign Once They're Gone, They're Gone Forever
The Roadless Rule
Threats to Roadless Areas
Politics and Policy
America's Roadless Areas
Enjoying Your Wild Forests
Roadless Areas by State
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Fact Sheets & Reports
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Protecting America's National Forests, a report by the Heritage Forests Campaign

In This Section


" Clear Forks Divide

" The Siskiyou National Forest

" The Tongass National Forest

" The Sage Creek Roadless Area

" The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

" Additional Local Reports

Colorado's backcountry forests at risk

At stake are some of Colorado's most scenic backcountry forests, which for generations have served as safeguards for clean drinking water, a home to valuable fish and wildlife, and a haven for outdoor recreation.

Colorado's roadless areas are important to big game and Colorado big-game hunters – providing habitat for the majority of the state's cutthroat trout population as well as offering the highest concentration of big game. For example, 41 percent of all land in the state that yields the highest number of trophy mule deer bucks is roadless, while the most hunted lands for the state's prized elk are roadless. Drilling and other development would result in roads, well pads and collection pipes, all of which bisect game habitat and present potential problems to fish habitat.

If the roadless rule were replaced some of Colorado's most pristine national forests would be permanently lost.

Clear Forks Divide: Colorado's largest roadless complex

Covering more than 94,000 acres, Clear Forks Divide, south and west of Carbondale, represents one of Colorado's largest tracts of intact backcountry. It is also considered by many to be under the greatest threat from new oil and gas leases.

Clear Forks Divide splits three watersheds, and its six sprawling forests include rugged canyons, aspen-covered rolling hills and mature spruce stands. Much of Clear Forks is within the Grand Mesa-Uncompaghre-Gunnison National Forest and White River National Forest, which, according to the Forest Service, draws more outdoor enthusiasts than any other national forest in the nation. It also serves as an important migration corridor for elk, and contains some of the state's best black bear habitat. Its rivers and streams host cutthroat trout, which in Colorado are under threat from loss of habitat and water diversion. Visitors are attracted by the lure of unparalleled ice and rock climbing, spectacular hiking, prized fishing and world-class big-game hunting.

Although these areas were protected from development by the 2001 roadless rule, 45 leases have been proposed by the administration since 2001, which would allow nearly 31,000 acres — one third of this magnificent backcountry —to be developed for oil and gas drilling.

Oil and gas development here could quickly and permanently change the landscape, threatening hiking and climbing along Thompson Creek, a popular destination, providing excellent hiking, climbing and boasting great views of Mount Sopris and the Roaring Fork Valley.

For more information please read the Pew Environment Group's roadless report, "Leasing Colorado's Legacy: New Roadless Plan Opens Backcountry to Drilling", or our fact sheet, "National Roadless Areas in Colorado" (both PDF).

Photos of Forests