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What Beer, Recreation and Wilderness Have in Common

July 15, 2011

DENVER - A wide coalition of groups representing businesses and environmentalists are joining to oppose Colorado's proposed roadless-rule plan.

The Obama administration is considering how much of Colorado's national forest land should remain wild. Public comment ended this week on a proposal which would protect 13 percent of current roadless areas - an amount significantly less than what advocates are hoping for. They want 3 million acres to fall into the most-protected category, which is about 70 percent of the current roadless lands. The group includes environmentalists, but also recreation-related businesses and brewers such as Charlie Berger, co-founder of Denver Beer Co.

"What we're looking to accomplish is, I think, to maintain that high water quality. Colorado is a leader in the craft beer scene nationally and internationally."

About one-fourth of river headwaters in Colorado lie within the more than 4 million current roadless acres, Berger says, adding that it's important to maintain those areas to safeguard the state's water supplies.

Recreation is a $10 billion industry in Colorado, according to Craig Mackey, director of government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association, providing more than 100,000 jobs and adding $500 million to the state's tax coffers.

"We recognize that outdoor-recreation tourism and the quality-of-life industry are big business in Colorado. We view protecting wilderness areas as a strategic investment in wildlife, healthy lifestyles and sustainable domestic employment."

Even if the full 3 million acres were protected, says Ted Zukoski, an attorney with Earthjustice, Colorado would still lag behind its neighbors.

"The Four Corners states which touch Colorado have national Forest Service lands, and 100 percent of their forest lands are protected with the highest levels of protection."

Those states are covered by the 2001 federal standard, and Zukoski says Colorado's protections should meet or exceed that standard.

Colorado was allowed by the Bush Administration to set up its own roadless-rule policies for Forest Service land. The government review process of the plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Information on the Colorado Roadless Rule is online at the Forest Service website, Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO