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Outdoor Alliance releases new film to illustrate why the Obama Administration must keep its promise to protect Colorado's National Forest Roadless Areas

2011-06-23 / Thomas O'Keefe

As the Obama administration prepares to outline its objectives for managing Colorado’s National Forest Roadless Areas, the Outdoor Alliance is releasing a film today that highlights the need to expand and strengthen “upper tier” status for the spectacular landscapes and incredible recreational opportunities found in Colorado’s National Forest Roadless Areas.

Colorado's backcountry is an outdoor recreation paradise.  Whether it’s riding Monarch Crest trail, backcountry skiing at Berthoud Pass, paddling the Animas, bouldering at Independence pass, or hiking up Mount Elbert the second highest peak in the continental United States, outdoor enthusiasts understand the important role that roadless areas play in protecting these ecosystems that provide clean air, drinking water, and outdoor recreation that power local tourism economies across the state. As City of Salida Mayor Chuck Rose states in the film, "Our community enjoys an incredible quality of life and access to some of the best recreation in the nation. It is why people come here to visit and it is why people come here to live. We are a recreation-based economy."

The draft Colorado Roadless Rule is open for public comment through July 14, 2011. Public input is essential to protecting open pristine backcountry from industrial development and ensuring that Colorado's open spaces, wild landscapes and intact ecosystems remain a top priority. Roadless areas are a finite and extremely valuable resource to Colorado’s culture and its economy. President Obama’s administration pledged that a Colorado Roadless Rule would be at least as protective, if not more protective than the 2001 Roadless Rule, the current federal standard for protecting these areas. Upholding this commitment to providing the best protection possible for roadless areas in Colorado is important for both the local communities and the local economies across Colorado.

Putting the importance of this protection into perspective, professional mountain bike athlete Dave Wiens, from Gunnison states, "In Colorado we have the opportunity with Roadless Areas to really protect some fantastic, amazing places. It couldn't be any more important, because once you come in and do natural resource extraction and lay out a network of roads throughout an area it is done, it's never going to be the same."

In the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule, the creation of an “upper tier” management category is a welcome development.  This new category provides for strong protections of roadless areas, although its definition could be strengthened to prevent special interests from finding loopholes that could lead to development in roadless areas.  And, given the wealth of backcountry recreational resources in Colorado, from the mountain passes, crags, trails and rivers, and the enormous social and economic value associated with enjoying these resources, the proposed rule’s upper-tier designation of a mere 13% of Colorado roadless areas is simply not enough. That is why the Outdoor Alliance and its member organizations are asking the Obama administration to strengthen the definition of “upper tier” status and to increase the amount of acres managed under this category.

Roadless Area protection is important for the following reasons:

   * Roadless Areas provide high quality recreational opportunities: Frequently located at lower elevations than Wilderness Areas, Roadless Areas include scenic landscapes, ancient forests, and wild rivers that are enjoyed by the public.

   * Roadless Areas provide a diverse array of recreational opportunities: These lands provide backcountry recreational opportunities that are accessible and can be enjoyed by millions of Americans and their families who hike, paddle, climb, mountain bike, ski and snowshoe.

   * Roadless Areas are important for quality of life: The wild quality of Roadless Areas and the superb scenic and recreational opportunities that they provide significantly add to the quality of life for communities like Salida that are in close proximity to these areas.

   * There are already plenty of roads in the U.S. Forest System: Our National Forest road network includes more than 386,000 miles of roads with only 21 percent of these roads meeting adequate road maintenance standards.

As shown and emphasized in the film, National Forest Roadless Areas provide some of our nation’s most highly valued recreational opportunities and are a key component of the overall experience available on public lands that bring people together and leave visitors enriched.

Watch the Film

Learn More and Take Action at Colorado Roadless Project

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