Colorado roadless rule deliberations coming to a head

Efforts to close perceived loopholes in Colorado’s controversial roadless rule, which outlines management plans for 4.4 million acres of largely unspoiled public lands throughout the state, will come to a head Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington as a key federal advisory group meets on the issue.

State officials and environmental activists will converge in D.C. to make their case for eliminating exceptions in Colorado’s draft roadless rule that would allow for more oil and gas drilling, logging, ski-area expansion and infrastructure roads (for power lines and water facilities) than previously allowed under the 2001 Clinton administration roadless rule.

The Clinton rule was set aside early in the first Bush administration, clearing the way for states to enact their own guidelines for managing federal roadless areas. Idaho, one of only two states to go that route, recently passed its own rule that much more closely parallels the Clinton rule.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the U.S. Forest Service’s Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee (RACNAC), a coalition of environmentalists and sportsmen’s groups will push hard to close loopholes revealed during months of public meetings and criticized in thousands of public comments. A recent poll revealed most Coloradans favor preserving the roadless character of public lands to increasing energy development.

U.S. News & World Report recently identified the restoration of the Clinton roadless rule as one of five “environmental ideas” for the incoming Obama administration, and The Associated Press reported that “Obama says he will acquire and conserve new parks, and uphold the 58.5 million acres of national forestland that former President Clinton set aside in 2001 as roadless areas. The Bush administration has tried to overturn the rule.”

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.