Since this century began, the fate of the nation's roadless national forest has been in various stages of limbo, and
though resolution might, potentially, be arriving sometime in the not-too-far-off future, there remain more questions
than answers at this point.
And in Colorado, those questions are zingers.
After the Bush administration attempted to undo the work of the Clinton administration in implementing the Roadless
Area Conservation Rule of 2001 - the landmark measure that offered sweeping, and sweepingly popular, protections for
America's pristine forests - the fate of the rule has been winding its way through various court proceedings and
administrative wrangling at state and federal levels. After suspending the rule, Bush offered states the opportunity to
come up with their own recommendations on how to manage the roadless resources that happen to be owned by all
Americans, despite the trees' state-specific locale. Colorado, along with Idaho, was one of two states to take Bush up
on the opportunity.
What followed was the appointment of a task force, a series of public meetings and a rulemaking drafting process that
ultimately led to Gov. Bill Ritter's petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month to accept a
Colorado rule. Unfortunately, that rule falls short of the necessary protections and flexibility to manage our roadless
forests in a manner that protects their many important values for wildlife habitat, clean drinking water sources,hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities, and as backdrops to our communities.
Since President Obama took the helm in Washington, D.C., there has been a timeout on major activity on the inventoried
roadless areas covered in the 2001 rule as the various protests and challenges wind their way through court. In
addition, the Obama administration has defended the 2001 rule in federal court. It seems appropriate, then, that the
federal rule for a federal resource applies in all states. Allowing Colorado to make exceptions for ski area expansions
and coal mining activity undermines the spirit of the 2001 roadless rule, and its letter as well.
The state roadless rule as reflected in Ritter's petition to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack simply does not
extend adequate protections to the more than 4 million acres of roadless national forests in Colorado. As some of the
most treasured of such lands in the nation, it is essential that our state be a showcase of how to best care for them -
not find loopholes for avoiding the protections that a majority of Americans and Coloradans support.
We see and enjoy these forests every day - from Hermosa Creek to the HD Mountains - and time and again we have said
that we'd like these lands to remain as they are today.
After a decade of discussion, debate and deliberations, let's go back to where we started and implement, in all states,the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
firstname.lastname@example.org Megan Graham is director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.