By Laura Bailey
As Web Editor for The Wilderness Society I spend a lot of time writing about special wild lands throughout the nation, but this blog is especially personal because it’s about roadless forests in my beloved home state of Colorado.
Some of Colorado’s wildest forests have recently come under serious threat from development.
Unfortunately, my state is attempting to exempt itself from a national rule that protects federal roadless forests from road-building, logging, mining and other forms of development.
This means that previously unblemished forests, including parts of the White River National Forest and the San Juan National Forest, will be degraded by the negative impacts of logging, coal mining and the networks of roads and infrastructure needed to support such industries.
Why should Colorado’s wildest public forests be left out in the cold from the same protections that other federal roadless forests receive and need? The answer is ‘they shouldn’t be.’ These places are no ordinary forests, nor does their defilement affect Coloradans alone.
The forests at stake hold incalculable value in the form of watershed protection, global warming mitigation and prime habitat for multitudes of species. More than that, their extreme beauty and tranquility provides nourishment and rejuvenation for innumerable recreationists each year.
Instead of following standard federal protections, Colorado is proposing to instate its own weakened version of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. This 2001 rule protects more than 60 million acres of pristine forests throughout the country.
The proposal came about after the Bush administration attempted to weaken the 2001 rule by proposing that states could opt-in to such protections or craft their own versions of the rule.
However, the Obama administration has stated its commitment to uphold the 2001 roadless rule so that it once again applies to all roadless areas in all states.
Ironically, despite this great win for forests, Colorado has continued with its efforts to make its own weaker version, which brings me to the point of this blog: If you care about global warming, endangered species, clean drinking water, or just the value of having a few last untouched wild places around, then please help Colorado’s most pristine forests stay intact.
The state of Colorado is accepting public comment about its proposal from Colorado residents until Oct. 2 (residents can send letters to: Roadless.Comments@state.co.us).
The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups are also asking the public to join with them in asking President Obama to direct the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to suspend the state of Colorado’s effort to approve a weakened roadless rule and to uphold the 2001 national rule instead.
Photo by Holly Werran, courtesy of REI.