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Outdoor Alliance Comments on Colorado Roadless Rule

2011-07-14 / Thomas O'Keefe
Representing the collective interests of millions of individuals and thousands of businesses, Outdoor Alliance joined national and major regional organizations including Outdoor Industry Association, American Alpine Club, American Mountain Guides Association and The Colorado Mountain Club in commenting on the Colorado Roadless Rule.

Colorado’s Roadless Areas, unroaded backcountry areas on the National Forest, offer first-rate outdoor recreation opportunities that represent a finite resource. As our nation continues to develop and our intact landscapes become increasingly fragmented, the value of our undeveloped public lands only increases. USDA pledged that the Colorado rule would be “as protective or preferably more protective” than the National Roadless Rule. While significant progress has been made, and the current draft is greatly improved from previous versions, the proposed Colorado Rule still falls short of this standard. 

In our comments we identified areas of material improvement from past versions of a proposed rule to manage Colorado's roadless areas. Specifically, language on preserving roadless area characteristics has been modified to better focus management on conservation and stewardship of roadless areas. Insect and disease outbreak language has been made more conservative by replacing previous language with ecosystem-focused management language. Finally, more explicit language on restoring any new roads roads that may be constructed in these areas was added.

While the proposed rule is much improved from earlier efforts, the meager acreage presently in the upper tier category (562,200 acres) precludes the proposed rule from hitting the Obama Administration’s target of a rule that will provide conservation protections as strong as or stronger than the 2001 Roadless Rule. We completed an analysis of several areas of importance to our community that should be added to the upper tier including the following noteworty examples:
  • The Colorado Trail, an iconic destination for mountain bikers and hikers, crossing through 26 CRAs along its 483-mile route;
  • The Continental Divide Trail, which traverses Colorado’s highcountry for 800 spectacular miles of its route from the Canadian border to Mexico;
  • The Animas River Canyon and its tributaries, a world-famous whitewater boating destination;
  • The Arkansas River Valley, home to peerless mountain biking trails and whitewater;
  • The Cache La Poudre Canyon and its upper reaches, presenting outstanding opportunities for backcountry winter travel, climbing, hiking, mountain biking and whitewater boating, all within a short drive from Colorado’s Front Range population centers;
  • The Vail Pass area, and other tremendously popular backcountry areas for winter recreation and summer hiking in and around Colorado’s Summit County.

We also provided recommended stronger protection language for conservation of roadless area values and characteristics of Upper Tier lands in the form of No Surface Occupancy. In addition we recommended clearer standards for Linear Construction Zones.

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