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Roadless areas open to logging, mining

Cliff Thompson
Don Clark/Vail DailyPresident Bush has given states the authority to build roads and bring other activity into federal lands known as roadless areas 130,000 acres worth in Eagle County where motor vehicles were previously banned.
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EAGLE COUNTY – More than 130,000 acres of roadless areas in Eagle County have been put in regulatory limbo by a presidential ruling last week allowing states to determine how to use those lands.The new rule could allow – based on the governor’s recommendations – road-building, mining and logging in areas of the White River National Forest that now don’t see that activity, environmentalists said. Roadless areas, where motor vehicles are banned, are one notch beneath wilderness areas in terms of the degree of protection they receive.”We don’t like it,” said Rocky Smith of Colorado Wild, an environmental group. “Long term it could result in the destruction of a lot of roadless areas over time.”President Bush Thursday overturned rules created by President Clinton that had protected nearly 60 million acres of roadless area, the majority of which is in Alaska and the West.”It’s a question of degree,” said Dan Hormaechea, lands specialist with the 2.2 million-acre White River National Forest, which has 640,000 acres or roadless lands. “We don’t know what this new rule will do.”Hormaechea said anything the governor recommends would have to abide by forest management policies, which were adopted three years ago and provide a blueprint for land use and other issues. The policies envisioned some logging, Hormaechea said.One of the largest areas that could be affected the rule change is 39,100-acre Red Table Mountain 20 miles south of Gypsum. The forest service is considering this high-elevation, largely roadless area for wilderness designation.”The new rules allow no protection,” said Smith. “”It took a very good rule that protected roadless areas , with reasonable exceptions for thinning and fire protection, and replaced it with no protection.”If Gov. Bill Owens recommends roadless areas be developed, those proposals will be reviewed by top regional forest officials for compliance with management policies, Hormaechea said.

“If the governor comes back and says the whole area should be developed, we still have to do an environmental impact statement,” Hormaechea said.That plan also allows smaller changes in use to be reviewed under a less comprehensive environmental assessment, Hormaechea said. Owens has 18 months to make his recommendation to the Forest Service.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.==========================================To Learn Morehttp://roadless.fs.fed.us/states/co/whtr.pdf==========================================

==========================================Eagle County’s roadless areas• Meadow Mountain……….5,200 acres• Gypsum Creek…………….17,970• Hardscrabble Mountain…11,750• Adam Mountainn………….8,210• West Brush Creek………..5,760• Salt Creek…………… …….5,600

• West Lake Creek…………3,300• Red Dirt……………………..9,100• Lower Piney………………..13,420• Berry Creek…………………8,560• Dome Peak………………….9,980• Red Table Mountain……..31,900Total……..131,650 acres==========================================Vail, Colorado


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