Unofficial Colorado Roadless Week rolls on with Sherman hearing, rally

In what the Pew Environment Group has dubbed “Unofficial Colorado Roadless Week,” opponents of the state’s controversial policy aimed at protecting 4.4 million acres of mostly undeveloped public lands will converge on Denver’s Civic Center Park at noon on Thursday after a three-week road show in 10 Colorado cities.

Towing a 16-foot-long wall covered with snapshots of supporters of a more protective national roadless rule that would preempt Colorado’s rule – which they argue makes far too many road-building exceptions for water and power infrastructure, energy development, logging and ski-area expansion – organizers have dubbed their push “Don’t Sell Colorado Short.”

Thursday’s rally comes close to the Saturday, Oct. 3, deadline for submitting comments on the revamped Colorado roadless rule. Also on Thursday, Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., are expected to introduce bipartisan legislation to codify the 2001 Clinton roadless rule that was later thrown out by the Bush administration.

In other roadless news, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee will begin confirmation hearings today for Colorado Department of Natural Resources director Harris Sherman as the Obama administration’s pick to oversee the U.S. Forest Service as the Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment. Sherman’s spearheading of the Colorado roadless rule makes him somewhat of a controversial selection for that post.

And Pew responded Wednesday to comments made Monday in Denver by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to the Colorado Independent indicating some willingness to at least take some of the Colorado roadless rule’s exception for logging roads into consideration, given the ongoing pine bark beetle epidemic and looming fire threat.

According to Pew’s Rob Vandermark:

“The argument that the roadless rule was developed before the pine beetle epidemic, and therefore Colorado needs to come up with a new program, doesn’t wash. The 2001 roadless rule builds in considerable exemptions for road building and tree cutting to address fire risk.

“Logging 1.5 miles away from at-risk communities, as the state rule would allow, would do little to reduce the risk of fire to those communities, especially if little or no action had been taken to reduce the risk of fire in the area immediately surrounding each community.”

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