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February 27, 2008

Brandon MacGillis (HFC) 202.887.8830

More Than 80,000 Voice Opposition To Bush Administration's Proposal To Remove Protections For Colorado's National Forests

WASHINGTON In less than 60 days, more than 80,000 people have submitted comments opposing a controversial proposal that would remove current protections for more than 4.4 million acres of Colorado's roadless national forests leaving them vulnerable to industrial development, including coal mining and new oil and gas development.

"In its final months, the Bush administration is making one last attempt to give logging and mining industries the keys to some of Colorado's most biologically diverse and valuable fish and wildlife habitat," said Robert Vandermark manager of the Pew Environment Group's Heritage Forests Campaign. "It's clear from the public's overwhelming opposition to this 11th hour proposal that these wild forests in the Rocky Mountains should be protected for all Americans to enjoy, not given away to special interests."

On December 26, 2007, the federal government started a national rulemaking to remove Colorado's national forests from the protections of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, the landmark conservation policy that preserves the last 30 percent of the country's undeveloped national forests. It initiated the Colorado rulemaking, as well as a similar effort now underway for Idaho, after a federal district court rejected its attempt to repeal the 2001 rule. If adopted, the proposal could put at risk such special areas in Colorado as Grizzly Creek Gulch, Barr Trail, Thompson Creek and Battlement Mesa.

After a Wyoming court temporarily enjoined the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, the Colorado legislature created the Roadless Areas Review Task Force in 2005 to advise the governor on protecting the state's undeveloped national forests. The Bush administration proposal is continuing to push the task force's recommendations, despite the fact that the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was subsequently reinstated by a federal district court in California.

"The Roadless Areas Review Task Force approach was called an ‘insurance policy'," said Vandermark. "But as all good policyholders know, any changed circumstances generally mean a change in policy or at least its thorough re-examination."

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Roadless areas in Colorado make up 30% of the state's national forests and serve as habitats for fish and wildlife, sources for clean drinking water, and as prime destinations for outdoor recreation, to Coloradans and visitors throughout the country.

Among other things, the Bush administration's proposal for roadless areas in Colorado would:

  • Allow oil and gas drilling companies to build roads, pipelines and other industrial projects in thousands of acres of roadless areas
  • Permit coal mines to expand in currently pristine areas, where the state already owns mineral rights in order to mine these areas
  • Open some roadless areas to be leased for ski area expansion
  • Loosen restrictions on logging in roadless areas

Photos of Forests