WASHINGTON – Following the federal release of a management plan for Colorado’s national forest roadless areas, sportsmen sharply criticized elements of the plan that could negatively affect fish and game habitat, decrease hunting and fishing opportunities and drastically change how backcountry areas are administered across the state. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is calling on Colorado Gov. Jim Ritter to intervene on behalf of the state’s hunters, anglers, and fish and wildlife to correct or suspend the Colorado roadless plan.
Friday’s posting of the draft environmental impact statement to the federal register continues a process initiated in April 2007, when Ritter submitted a roadless petition to promulgate a federal rulemaking process by the state of Colorado and the U.S. Forest Service. Colorado’s 4.4 million acres of backcountry currently are managed under the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
“The federal government is targeting the very places that Coloradans depend on for high-quality hunting and fishing,” said TRCP Roadless Initiative Manager Joel Webster. “Governor Ritter asked for a roadless rule that is ’93-95 percent’ consistent with current roadless protections, yet what the federal government delivered substantially weakens those guidelines. The governor must intervene on behalf of the state’s residents and fish, wildlife and backcountry to fix or suspend this problematic management plan.”
Troubling elements of the draft Colorado plan include the following:
- new miles of road built annually in the backcountry would increase by nearly 400 percent over current annual construction levels;
- the spread of invasive weeds could grow by 1,000 percent annually;
- road building for oil and gas development would be permitted in more than 57,000 acres of backcountry hunting and fishing areas;
- roadless areas would be opened to utility corridors (power lines) and water conveyance structures (water projects other than dams).
“Federal decision-makers failed to address the concerns of Governor Ritter and Colorado sportsmen,” continued Webster. “Not only is the proposed rule rushed, it is disturbingly vague. It sets the stage to develop important backcountry areas that are currently being conserved.”
“If the Colorado rule is finalized as currently proposed, places like the HD Mountains in the San Juan National Forest, Mamm Peak in the White RiverNational Forest, and Clear Creek in the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison National Forest could be changed forever,” said TRCP Field Representative Jason Sorter. “These areas have been prized by sportsmen in Colorado for decades.
“Even a cursory review of the draft plan reveals inconsistencies that could result in confusion and abuse,” continued Sorter, a third-generation Coloradan and avid hunter and angler. “Given that we are deciding the fate of 4.4 million acres of public lands, it makes sense to slow down and avoid mistakes. By acting now, Governor Ritter can ensure that Colorado’s backcountry traditions have a secure future.”