With one week left in the public comment period on changes to the national forest “Roadless Rule”, Environment Colorado and the Outdoor Industry Association released a report today highlighting the economic value of Colorado’s roadless areas.
The report found that “Colorado receives nearly $60 million from its 4.4 million acres of roadless areas each year.” President of OIA, Frank Hugelmeyer, said “Roadless lands have tremendous value as wild backcountry destinations for the 2.5 million Coloradans who participate in outdoor activities each year and are important economic drivers for local communities across the State.”
The U.S. Forest Service will stop accepting public input on The Bush Administration’s proposal to rollback protections for 58.5 million acres of National Forests on Tuesday, September 14th. The proposed changes to the Roadless Area Conservation Rule would potentially allow the construction of new roads for logging, mining and drilling on 4.4 million acres of protected national forests in Colorado.
“Our wild forests are not only great places to fish and hike, they are a critical part of our tourist economy. People come here to enjoy wilderness, not to see clear cuts and mine tailings,” said Environment Colorado spokesmen, Jake Schlesinger.
The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was enacted after more than two decades of broad debate and three years of official review and public participation. Over 1.7 million Americans commented on the rule, with 95% in support of the strongest possible protections. On July 12th, 2004, the Bush administration announced a proposal to repeal the Roadless Rule. The administration proposes to replace the rule with a process that allows governors to petition the U.S. Forest Service on a state-by-state basis. Petitions may include all or none of the plans for protections in the original Roadless Rule and they could include plans that would allow logging, mining, and road building in roadless areas.
Barry Kirkpatrick, co-owner of Cutthroat Anglers, one of the West’s premiere guide services and fly shops in Silverthorne, is concerned that his business and others will suffer if the proposed rule changes are accepted. “We should keep these areas open and available for commercial recreation, not logging and mining. Recreation is the backbone of all the business out here in one way or another. It makes sense to protect these areas so we can use them over and over again. A quick clear cutting ruins these areas for their long term economic value.”
Findings in the report will be discussed Wednesday night in Denver at a public hearing scheduled by environmental groups and the Outdoor Industry Association at University of Denver’s Lindsay Auditorium at 6:30pm.
“The Roadless Rule is the most popular federal policy in the history of the United States and that popularity has not diminished. The Forest Service will once again see that Coloradans want these places protected. Hopefully that’ll be enough,” says Jake Schlesinger.