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WASHINGTON – Management of Colorado roadless areas was on the agenda at the recent Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee (RACNAC) meeting in Washington, D.C., where staff of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was in attendance to advocate for sportsmen and Colorado’s backcountry. During the Nov. 18-19 gathering, the RACNAC continued to formulate recommendations for the Colorado roadless rule, which is being finalized by the U.S. Forest Service and state of Colorado and should determine the future of more than 4 million acres of federal public lands.

“The RACNAC is charged with developing recommendations for refining the Colorado rule, but the federal push to get this plan done before the end of the current administration could undermine both the RACNAC’s utility and the final product,” said TRCP Roadless Initiative Manager Joel Webster. “If Colorado wants its state-based roadless rule to be successful, we need to slow down and do this the right way.”

Sportsmen maintain that the Colorado roadless rule can sustain healthy habitat, secure fish and wildlife populations and uphold hunting and fishing traditions if common-sense revisions are made to the draft plan. Revisions to the Colorado rule discussed by the RACNAC include the following:

  • reworking directives for utilities and water conveyances that under the draft rule allow road building in all of Colorado’s 4.4 million acres of backcountry;
  • refining language governing timber cutting treatments in the wildland-urban interface;
  • reviewing the removal of more than a half-million acres from Colorado’s roadless inventory – a transfer that also is being questioned by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

At the RACNAC meeting, TRCP staff highlighted weaknesses in the draft rule, including liberal exceptions for power line corridors and water projects, as well as the need to resolve development guidelines that could allow road building on 70,000 acres of backcountry oil and gas leases.

At the same time, however, the TRCP commended efforts by federal and state authorities to rectify some of the inconsistencies in the draft rule. “The TRCP is heartened to see the rule corrected to focus community protection timber-cutting efforts in and around homes rather than deep in the backcountry,” Webster stated. “Fixing the problems in the draft rule will take time. That’s why the state of Colorado and the U.S. Forest Service must step forward and ensure that Colorado ends up with a sound management plan, not a rush job that will jeopardize the future of important backcountry lands.

“We’re confident that the Colorado roadless rule can be revised to reflect the needs of fish and wildlife and the values of Coloradans,” Webster concluded. “For inspiration, we need look no further than the new Idaho roadless rule, which was achieved through the teamwork of the U.S. Forest Service, state officials and experts on the RACNAC. The time has come for strong and decisive action – and sportsmen are relying on state and federal decision makers to get Colorado roadless management right.”

The RACNAC meeting, the second the council has convened to weigh the Colorado roadless rule, follows a public comment period enabling citizens’ input on the plan. The comment period ended Oct. 23. Roadless areas provide superior habitat to species prized by sportsmen and form the core of more than $1 billion hunter and anglers contribute annually to Colorado’s economy.

Visit the TRCP Web site to learn more about the proposed Colorado rule.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.