Roadless task force delays recommendations until August
The Colorado Roadless Area Review Task Force will delay until around Aug. 15 its release of draft recommendations for how the state’s 4.4 million acres of roadless land should be managed.The task force spent months gathering public comment around the state about the fate of Colorado’s national forest roadless areas and must make its final recommendations to Gov. Bill Owens by Sept. 15. The public will have about two or three weeks to comment on the draft recommendations before they become final. Owens will then use the task force’s vision for roadless area management to make recommendations of his own to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will ultimately decide the fate of Colorado’s roadless areas. Task force member Steve Smith of Glenwood Springs said Thursday the task force was unable to hammer out its recommendations – originally due July 19 – at the group’s Wednesday meeting in Denver, and will meet several more times before Aug. 15 via telephone to complete its draft recommendations. Smith said the task force accomplished three things Wednesday: “We got through about half of the key issue topics and worked out some tentative recommendations. And then, second, we looked at some overall principals that would guide the whole package, and third, we set up a process for what we need to do next.”That process involves more meetings and more deliberations, mostly on the phone, he said. “We talked mostly about how roads relate to roadless values … and the kind of harm they can do, and what kind of services new roads provide to communities and national forest visitors, and debated the difference between the two,” Smith said. He said task force members started their deliberations with the assumption that roadless areas need to be preserved and that road building must be prohibited in many of those areas. A list of exceptions allowing for road building in certain areas may be drafted. Colorado Mountain Club Conservation Director Vera Smith, who attended the meeting, said she believes most task force members want to protect roadless areas, but they’re also trying to accommodate many special interests. “At times, task force members were so intent on providing exceptions to a variety of special interests that they seemed to lose sight of the bigger picture,” said Vera Smith, who is not related to Steve Smith. “The challenge, which I think the task force can rise to meet, is to make sure that the cumulative impact of all the exceptions does not undercut efforts to provide overarching protections to these wonderful places,” she said. Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of the Wilderness Workshop, said it’s easy to understand how task force members could be in a difficult situation given that the Bush administration gave states 18 months to determine how they want their roadless areas managed. With 4.4 million acres of roadless land in Colorado with a variety of forest types and resource issues found across the state, “that’s a lot of information to synthesize and sort through in the short time they’ve had,” Shoemaker said. Greg Noss, land use officer for High Country Four-Wheelers, said he thinks the delay in the release of the task force’s draft recommendations occurred because the task force probably found exceptions that need to be made to roadless designations on local national forests. Ultimately, he said, he believes that each forest supervisor should be able to manage each forest the way he or she sees fit.
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The BLM will conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed wells needed to begin the NEPA process on the larger quarry expansion.