The Colorado Roadless Rule went into effect on Tuesday, marking the end of a long process to identify 4.2 million protected acres in Colorado.
In May, officials anticipated few changes during the 30-day comment period required prior to implementing the rule, and indeed, few changes were made.
The rule includes more stringent protection for more acreage than the 2001 national plan. However, some who opposed the rule that's specific to Colorado wanted to maintain the 2001 rule until a new national rule was devised.
Colorado Mountain Club is among those wishing the rule included more protections. Representative Scott Braden said the 2001 national rule has higher levels of protection, a claim officials contest.
The club "appreciates the improvements in the Colorado Roadless Rule released today, especially the stronger protections for 1.2 million 'upper tier' acres," Braden wrote in a release. "There are significant improvements from the earlier drafts of the state-specific rule, governing the management of 4.2 million acres of inventoried roadless lands."
He adds that the club has been an advocate for a rule that protects Coloradans' interests by offering the highest levels of protection to the roadless forest lands.
Still, there are problems, Braden said. Exemptions for coal mining, ski area expansion and others allow road building contrary to the purpose of the club's work - seeking to protect wild places and promoting quiet, human-powered recreation.
Officials with the Colorado Roadless Rule have said those exemptions aren't significant in the broad strokes of the rule.
It's part of the compromise, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said previously.
"The Colorado Roadless Rule has some strong conservation components we like a lot, and a few exceptions for industry we are not thrilled about," Braden said. "But on balance, this rule protects millions of acres for wildlife habitat, sustains our large recreation economy and our Colorado quality of life."
Trout Unlimited praises the rule, saying it protects fish and game habitat as well as fishing and hunting opportunities.
The process took about seven years to complete.
"It ensures continued access to the backcountry by anglers and hunters, and it emphasizes the need to keep native cutthroat trout habitat healthy and intact," a release from Trout Unlimited states.
"Colorado's anglers and hunters understand the connection between healthy fish and game habitat and their ability to fish and hunt successfully on land that belongs to all Americans," said Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited's president and CEO. "That's why our volunteer members were engaged and involved in the Colorado rule-making process. This rule, while not perfect, sets the bar pretty high, and proves that sportsmen are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to protecting public lands and how they're managed today, and in the future."
The organization says the Colorado rule is comparable to the 2001 national rule, which was challenged several times in court - and though it's in place currently, future challenges are likely.
Colorado and Idaho initiated their own roadless projects in 2005, the only states to do so.