Roadless rule will not be tied to court decision
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO, Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. – The proposed Colorado Roadless Rule will take effect regardless of what a federal court decides concerning its controversial predecessor, known as the Clinton Roadless Rule, said Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Rick Cables on Thursday.
And, Cables told a gathering of roughly 60 people, “I hope this is the last meeting on the roadless rule,” explaining that he has been involved in the process through the administrations of three Colorado governors and two presidents.
The Colorado Roadless Rule, which would set up areas off limits to tree-cutting and road building, has been under consideration since 2005, when the state Legislature created a task force to deal with the issue.
That was after an earlier attempt, the 2001 so-called Clinton Rule named after former President Bill Clinton, got bogged down by legal challenges that remain in the hands of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court.
“We have the chance to get 4.2 million acres of roadless areas into the bag,” he told his audience at an open house held Thursday evening at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, referring to the acreage that is under consideration.
Comments at the meeting were dominated by concerns that the roadless rule might not be stiff enough to prevent such things as extractive industries or other road-based activities from taking place.
Prior to the meeting with Forest Service officials, Wilderness Workshop held a “Rocky Roadless” ice cream social in an adjacent room, drawing a couple of dozen interested citizens.
Chris Manuel of New Castle peppered Cables and other officials with questions about how the new rule would affect existing mineral leases. Cables told her the rule would not prevent companies from drilling for gas.
“This rule is neutral on existing leases,” Cables said. “We can’t make a rule that takes away a legal right.”
“If they’ve got all these leases,” Manuel said during a break in the gathering, “then all this is for naught. They can just go ahead.”
Others at the meeting, however, were concerned about issues such as how the rules would deal with “linear construction zones,” such as temporary roads for construction of powerlines and pipelines.
Bob Hunt of Aspen asked how restoration could be guaranteed, since the building of temporary roads is allowed under certain conditions.
Cables said the Forest Service requires a bond from the road builders, which can be used for restoration if the company fails to live up to its agreement concerning rehabilitation of the land.
Mary Russell and Jennifer Moore, both of Glenwood Springs, took turns firing questions at Cables about fire danger and the use of what Russell called “controlled fires” to reduce the danger of wildfires.
Cables said the agency is ready and willing to use prescribed burns to manage the fuel load of a forest. He said that it has been made very difficult in the forests of Summit, Routt and Grand counties, where the pine bark beetle has killed off vast areas of trees.
“It’s tricky, where you’ve got a sea of dead trees,” Cables remarked, adding that the roadless rule in most cases would prohibit the use of fuels-management techniques except near communities, where measures are needed to protect lives and property.
The public is still welcome to make written comments on the proposed rule, and the deadline for comments is July 14.
Cables said he hopes the Forest Service can have a final version of the rule ready for publication by the end of 2011 or early 2012. However, Cables will not see the project through, as he will soon be taking a position with state government as the director of the newly merged Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.
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The Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge experienced vandalism in the form of significant water damage after a man removed a pipe valve with a fire extinguisher flooding four hallways. The lodge however remains open and operational.