In wake of Idaho ruling, conservation group targets Colorado roadless rule

(photo: Pamela Anderson, USFS)

A prominent conservation group Tuesday simultaneously praised a U.S. district court ruling upholding Idaho’s roadless rule and looked ahead to anticipated revisions of Colorado’s rule, which it says falls short in protecting millions of acres of public lands from road-building projects.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), a coalition of sportsmen’s groups, lauded a U.S. 9th District Court decision upholding the Idaho roadless rule, which governs the administration of more than 9.3 million acres of roadless public lands in that state.

Roadless areas in 37 states other than Idaho — including Colorado — are managed under the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a forest management regulation that was passed in the waning days of the Clinton administration in order to limit industrial road building and timber operations on 58.5 million acres of public lands.

The Bush administration quickly threw out the Clinton rule out and allowed states to petition the federal government for their own rules. Only Idaho and Colorado went that route. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Colorado, is considering a lawsuit challenging the 2001 rule, and a decision is expected early this year.

Conservation groups have been critical of the Colorado rule, which covers more than 4 million acres of public lands, saying it provides far too many exceptions for logging, ski-area expansion and some extractive industries such as oil and gas drilling and coal mining. The TRCP has been working to improve the Colorado rule.

“The Colorado roadless rule must be as strong as or stronger than the national rule to uphold Colorado’s great backcountry traditions,” said Joel Webster, director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands. “We hope that a soon-to-be-released revision of the rule will be significantly improved from previous drafts, and we will continue to help rectify any remaining deficiencies to ensure a top-quality management document for federal backcountry lands located in the state.”

Webster added the 9th Circuit Court made the right call in Idaho: “Overall, the Idaho rule is as strong as the [2001] national roadless rule, which many sportsmen maintain has established a minimum standard for safeguarding these valuable public lands.”

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