Colorado submits plan to manage national forests itself |

Colorado submits plan to manage national forests itself

Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Gov. Bill Ritter today is submitting a request to the Obama administration to let Colorado manage roadless national forests in the state according to the state’s own plan.

The nation’s 58 million acres of roadless national forest land are managed according to a national rule established in 2001.

Colorado natural resources officials for more than a year have been developing the state plan for managing about 4.2 million acres within the state in a way that they argue would be more attuned to current conditions and local needs.

“This is simply a better rule for Colorado,” Ritter said in a prepared statement this morning. “Our roadless areas will get stronger protections and we will get the targetted flexibility we need to address Colorado’s unique circumstances, such as the pine beetle epidemic, the ski industry and Western Slope coal mines.”

Ritter’s request asks Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to adopt Colorado’s roadless rule and the inventory of roadless lands that state officials have developed. Colorado began developing its own rule because the national 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule was facing challenges in federal court.

Environmental activists opposing Colorado’s proposed approach planned to lobby the Obama administration officials to implement an updated, consistent national rule.

“There’s real value in having consistent roadless protection throughout the nation – to avoid substandard protection in any portion of the nation,” said Steve Smith, assistant regional director for the Wilderness Society. “Colorado’s plan does indeed look at some very specific, unique circumstances that the state has in its national forests. We think those needs, and the state’s proposal, should be used in guiding the implementation of the national rule in Colorado.”

Other environment groups lauded the state approach.

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