In early 2001, the Forest Service issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, under which logging and road construction were prohibited in national forest roadless areas nationwide, with a few exceptions for public health and safety and for valid existing rights. This Rule had, and still has, very strong support nationwide, but the Bush Administration blocked the rule’s implementation and then replaced it with a scheme under which each state Governor could ask the Forest Service to manage that state’s roadless areas in the manner the state desired. In 2006, a federal judge found the Bush Administration’s actions illegal and reinstated the 2001 rule. Most states decided to rely on the protection provided by the 2001 Rule, but Colorado and Idaho decided to petition the Forest Service for roadless area management under another law.
The Roadless Area Conservation Rule
In May 2005, the Bush administration published its revised Roadless Area Conservation Rule, essentially turning the old rule on its head. The original Roadless Area Conservation Rule, issued in 2001, provided protections from most new road-building on nearly 60 million acres of inventoried roadless areas nationally (more than 4.4 million acres in Colorado including 640,000 on the White River National Forest). With most of America's National Forests already open to logging, mining and drilling, the Rule was intended to preserve the last third of undeveloped forests as a home for wildlife, a haven for recreation and a heritage for future generations. The 2001 Rule came after the most extensive public process in the history of the federal government – and was supported by an overwhelming 95% of those who submitted comments.
Under the revised rule, state governors must formally petition the Department of Agriculture to have any roadless-area protections reinstated. And even then, the Bush administration retained the discretion to put its own spin on things. More…
The Colorado Roadless Areas Review Task Force and State Petition
In 2006, the state of Colorado selected a 13-member Roadless Areas Review Task Force that took comments from residents across that state about how roadless areas ought to be managed. Based on the Task Force's findings, the Governor's staff drafted a proposed Colorado Roadless Rule and submitted a petition to the Bush Administration asking for a formal rulemaking process to adopt the proposed rule.
The Draft Colorado Roadless Rule
The formal rulemaking process began on July 25, 2008 with the release of the Draft Colorado Roadless Rule. Despite the overwhelming public outcry for complete roadless protection, the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule is so riddled with loopholes for the logging, coal mining, oil and gas, grazing, skiing, water and utilities interests that the concerns of the public seem largely ignored.
There is a well-developed statewide effort to demonstrate to the U.S. Forest Service the massive grassroots support for roadless areas in Colorado. C-RAD is in effect the White River National Forest chapter of that campaign. Click here for a complete history of the efforts to protect roadless areas across the nation and State of Colorado.
The benefits of roadless areas
Here in Western Colorado, it’s easy to take roadless areas for granted. Yet roadlessness is a tangible asset – one that provides invaluable benefits to all:
- Recreation. The White River National Forest is the nation’s most recreated forest. Hikers, hunters, anglers, dirt/mountain bikers, equestrians, backcountry skiers and snowmobilers all enjoy its roadless areas. More…
- Economic prosperity. Extractive industries lead to booms and busts. The current economy of the WRNF region, based on recreation, scenery and quality of life, is more sustainable and prosperous. More…
- Biodiversity and public health. Even if we never set foot in a roadless area, we all enjoy the clean air and water, healthy wildlife and intact ecosystems that roadless areas preserve. More…
Frequently Asked Questions