Hunters, anglers push roadless protection |

Hunters, anglers push roadless protection

Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY – Colorado’s roadless areas are critically important for big game and fish, and need to be protected from road building and other development, the conservation group Trout Unlimited concluded in a new report released this week.Unveiling the report during a conference call Wednesday, Trout Unlimited spokesman Chris Hunt said the data “goes a long way toward making a strong connection between roadless areas and hunting and fishing,” described as vital and significant components of Colorado’s recreation economy.At issue are 4 million roadless acres in Colorado identified under a Clinton-era Forest Service plan. The Clinton roadless plan was rescinded by incoming Bush appointees. “Roadless areas are refuges … and provide habitat for the three species of native Colorado cutthroat trout,” Trout Unlimited President Sharon Lance said. More than 75 percent of present-day greenback cutthroat trout habitat flows through roadless areas. Also, the bulk of the cutthroat habitat in Rio Grande and Colorado rivers flows through roadless areasThe roadless issue is of critical economic importance to the state’s recreation industry, said Jim Bartschi, president of Montrose-based Scott Fly Rods. Anglers and hunters contribute up to $1.5 billion to the state’s economy, he said. “I’m deeply concerned that we won’t be able to maintain our big game populations in the future,” said John Ellenberger, the former big game manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Tom Beck, another recently retired state wildlife biologist, said roadless preservation is important for hunters and others seeking solitude in the Colorado backcountry.”Some of us just don’t like our fellow man all that much,” Beck said. “We like to spend time away, and so does wildlife. I’m amazed, in the last five years, how hard it is to find a place to be by yourself,” Beck said.While the fate of the original plan is still subject to litigation, Colorado has launched a statewide roadless review process that will end with Gov. Bill Owens making a recommendation on how those 4 million acres should be managed. A state roadless task force is holding a series of meetings to take public input, with the next meeting set for Jan. 6 in Pueblo. The timing of the Trout Unlimited report is coincidental to that process, Hunt said, but added that the report reinforces the high level of public support for roadless protection.Vail, Colorado

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