The following is a statement by Ted Zukoski, Staff Attorney in the Denver office of Earthjustice, on the announcement of a final rule regulating the management of 4.2 million acres of roadless national forest in Colorado. Earthjustice, a non-profit law firm, has worked in federal courts across the country for more than a decade to defend a national roadless rule that provides the gold standard of protection for roadless lands.
“Colorado’s pristine forests are a treasure trove of wildlife habitat, pure drinking water for communities, and recreation for hunters and hikers. They are a legacy that should be passed on intact to our children and grandchildren.
“The rule announced today is an improvement over previous Colorado proposals. Protecting 1.2 million acres with the ‘Upper Tier’ designation, including increased protection from pipelines and power lines, is a step forward. The rule also moves in the right direction on limiting road construction on existing oil and gas leases, and we look forward to working with the Agriculture Department on further improvements.
“But the Colorado Rule still contains a loophole that allows coal companies to bulldoze roads on 20,000 acres of roadless forests and meadows, and it permits logging in remote areas far from communities. The Colorado rule leaves nearly three million roadless acres vulnerable to more road-building than was allowed under the 2001 national roadless rule. So taken on balance it is a step in the wrong direction.”