Ritter puts revised Colorado roadless rule back on the drawing board

The long, winding and seemingly endless road to adopting Colorado’s controversial roadless rule took another turn Monday, when Gov. Bill Ritter announced that an even further revised version will be announced by the end of the month, with the public then getting another 60 days to comment on the plan.

Environmentalists, of course, would like to see the whole thing scrapped despite two years worth of painstaking task force meetings and public hearings held to design a plan to manage Colorado’s 4.4 million acres of roadless public lands. They argue the present plan allows too many road-building exceptions for energy development, logging and ski-area expansion.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has put the brakes on road building on 58 million acres nationwide for the next year while the Obama administration tries to craft a national plan closer to the 2001 Clinton administration roadless rule. But Colorado is one of two states that opted to draft its own plan after the Bush administration threw out the Clinton plan and allowed states to go their own way.

Idaho last year adopted a roadless rule nearly as protective as the Clinton rule, but Colorado has been struggling to find a balance, given growing development pressure and the ongoing mountain pine bark beetle epidemic that is intensifying the need for logging roads. Ritter late last year successfully asked the Bush administration to back off on adopting the Colorado rule, but in recent months the plan has been moving forward again.

Conservationists also want to see the closure of what they deem “loopholes” allowing for power lines, water pipelines and other infrastructure to be built in roadless areas.

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