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More Twists and Turns for Colorado's Roadless Areas

December 4, 2008

Denver - Colorado's roadless areas have been traveling a winding regulatory road in recent months. This week a California circuit judge reviewed her previous injunction against the Bush administration's changes to the rules governing roadless areas. Her revised decision removes Colorado's 4.4 million acres of roadless areas from the injunction.

Concurrently, on Wednesday, David O. Williams, a Vail-area journalist writing for Colorado Independent.com (ColoradoIndependent.com), wrote that the Bush administration is reportedly trying to push through a new Colorado-specific roadless rule before Inauguration Day.

Rocky Smith with the group Colorado Wild says that would just add to the confusion.

"Having a Colorado rule finalized in the last days of the Bush administration would just make the resolution of the roadless issue even more complicated."

Smith adds that the previous 2001 roadless rule provided a few narrow exceptions for road-building, such as in the case of an emergency such as a flood or wildfire. But he points out the proposed new Colorado rule has much wider exceptions.

"There is relatively little limitation on what could be done in roadless areas, compared to the '01 rule--that's why we like the '01 rule much better."

Joel Webster with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership says the issue is incredibly complicated, and his main worry is that rushing a new rule through by January will come at a cost to Colorado backcountry.

"Out in the field and in the forest and in the waters, we're trying to maintain the quality fish and wildlife habitat that makes Colorado such a great hunting and fishing destination."

The current administration's proposed roadless rule changes include numerous exceptions for logging, oil and gas production and ski-area expansion. Deputy director Mike King with the state Department of Natural Resources says the state is currently supporting the new Colorado rule as a hedge in the absence of a national rule, but he isn't as certain that anything will be finalized before inauguration.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO