Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Environment Group's U.S. public lands program, today issued the following statement in response to a new State of Colorado proposal that would reduce protections for 4.4 million acres of national forest roadless areas in Colorado.
"Our initial review indicates that Colorado's draft plan offers even less roadless protection than the controversial proposal introduced last year. The Colorado plan would open some of the Rocky Mountain West's best backcountry and pristine watersheds to mining, oil and gas development, logging and road-building.
"Colorado's new proposal does not measure up to the popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a science-based policy that protects America's remaining undisturbed national forestlands from most industrial activity. Under the draft plan, Colorado's national forests could have fewer safeguards than those in every other state and become a magnet for development.
"We call on the Obama administration to extend the national protection provided by the 2001 roadless rule to all of America's national forests, including those in Colorado."
In 2005, the federal government sought to replace the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58.5 million acres of America's undeveloped national forestland, with a new policy to preserve roadless areas only if a state petitioned for such protection. In 2008, the State of Colorado submitted a proposal for national forest roadless areas that received widespread criticism from the conservation community for being weaker than the original 2001 rule. Today, the State of Colorado begins a 60-day comment period on a new draft of the proposal, which would eliminate even more key 2001 roadless rule protections.