Rule fails to protect irreplaceable fish and game habitat
DENVER.—Gov. Ritter’s revised protection rule for Colorado’s. 4.2 million acres of roadless land is an improvement over previous draft rules, but still needs further improvement to garner the full support of Colorado’s sporting community.
Sportsmen are applauding an updated inventory of the state’s roadless land that includes about 400,000 acres that were missed in the 2001 federal inventory. But they remain disappointed in the state’s failure to better address how roadless lands would be managed when it comes to forest health issues. The proposed rule would allow for logging throughout roadless lands to address insect and disease outbreaks, regardless of how close these outbreaks occur to communities.
“We’ve learned over time that you cannot log your way out of forest health issues,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “Protecting the interface between urban areas and roadless land is one thing, but these proposals could go far beyond what is needed to protect lives and property.”
Additionally, the state proposes protecting only about 6 percent of its entire roadless inventory under its “upper tier” protection status. Much more of Colorado’s backcountry is worthy of top-notch protection, Nickum said.
“Upper Tier protections are a good addition in this revised rule,” he said, “but far more high-quality backcountry deserves that level of protection.”
On a positive note, the state did protect the big-game-rich Currant Creek area from prospective coal mining and exploration. This unique area in western Colorado is prime habitat for elk and mule deer and offers unparalleled opportunity for hunters in the state. Additionally, the language in the revised rule better protects water resources, better spells out allowed water conveyances from roadless lands, and strengthens protection of native cutthroat trout habitat in roadless areas.
“We’re pleased the state listened to sportsmen on these issues and made many improvements from the draft, but the revised rule still needs some work if hunters and anglers are going to offer it their full support,” said Steve Kandell, director of TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “In order to meet Secretary Vilsack’s standard of a rule equal to or stronger than the 2001 rule, the Forest Service must strengthen Colorado’s offering, and TU and other sportsmen look forward to that opportunity.”
Trout Unlimited is a private, non-profit organization with 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.