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Participate in roadless decisions

Editor’s note: This piece was written by Colorado Rocky Mountain School AP Environmental Science students. Special to the Post IndependentIn 1999 and 2000, the Clinton administration initiated regulation of possible development in roadless areas. Once passed, The Roadless Area Conservation Rule placed 58.5 million acres in 38 states off-limits to logging, mining, drilling and mechanized recreation. Clinton’s plan, according to Grist Magazine, had 90 percent positive public feedback. In 2001, President Bush and his administration repealed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The Bush administration wrote its own proposal, rather than enforce the Clinton era rule. Bush’s plan, released July 12, 2001, has created much debacle, and ended up with 95 percent negative public feedback, according to Grist. The Bush plan removes 34.3 million acres of the total 58.5 million roadless acres from protected status. Protection of these lands from road developments is left to the discretion of state legislatures. States must petition the federal government if they wish to protect these lands by November 2006. Currently, the governor-appointed Colorado State Roadless Task Force is going through a public process to decide whether or not to keep Colorado’s areas roadless.Thirty-three roadless areas surround the Roaring Fork Valley. Some of these areas are designated Wilderness Areas and protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964. However, a number of these are located on National Forest, BLM or private land. One largely unprotected roadless area is the Thompson Creek roadless area, an 18,000-plus-acre area that sits southwest of Carbondale just across Highway 133 from Mount Sopris.Many people are invested in the Thompson Creek roadless area and these can be divided into three main constituents. People can benefit from the recreational uses, the economic uses and the conservation of this roadless area. The recreational users of Thompson Creek’s roadless area include hikers, hunters, anglers, mountain bikers, equestrians and backcountry skiers. Potential economic users of this roadless area are mainly those associated with the extractive industries, like oil and gas. The land is also important to cattle ranchers who have used this area for generations. Bill Fales, a rancher from Carbondale, opposes the creation of roads in the currently roadless areas. The intact ecosystems provide an important habitat for wildlife. If the people of Colorado choose to conserve this area, the pristine environment will benefit the multitudes of organisms that live there. In addition, intact watersheds provide a clean and unaffected water source. In Thompson Creek roadless area, the biggest threat to the area is drilling for natural gas. The mineral rights belong, in large part, to drilling companies. Dale Hancock, of the natural gas company EnCana, stated, “The quantities of resources to be extracted is unknown, and the potential resources include gold, natural gas, oil, silver and timber.” Despite this statement, some ranchers up Thompson Creek hope that the search for natural gas will be futile, a hope that was kindled by a well that proved to be dry. For each new well, the impacts to the area are great. According to Hancock, “Impacts of drilling on land include: construction of new roads, pads for drilling, increased use and therefore increased dust on existing roads, mud and faster deterioration of existing roads.” As of now there are no drill pads in the area. Once the land has been drilled upon, and new roads have been constructed, Thompson Creek can never be protected as roadless again. County Commissioner Dorothea Farris said, “If roads exist in an area, the area cannot be designated as wilderness.” The statewide Roadless Task Force is taking public comment through June 21, 2006. Public comments will inform the task force, who will then advise Gov. Owens as to whether to keep these areas roadless or to open them to potential road building for logging, mining, drilling, or other development. The governor may then choose to submit a petition to the Department of Agriculture requesting the protection of Colorado’s roadless areas. A national task force will then review the petition and may choose to accept, modify or reject the petition.The best way to express your opinion is to write a letter to the Colorado Task Force. The Task Force’s address is:The Keystone CenterATTN: Roadless Area Review1620 Sts. John Rd.Keystone, CO 80435In addition the Roadless Task Force is holding a public hearing in Glenwood Springs on Wednesday, June 21. You can find more information about this hearing and the roadless areas at http://www.wrroadless.org.


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