Sierra Club urges residents to adopt a roadless area
The Roaring Fork Chapter of the Sierra Club is urging its members and others passionate about the White River National Forest to adopt a roadless area – a first step to saving areas the club says may lose protection if people don’t speak out. The Adopt a Roadless Area campaign is part of environmentalists’ efforts to sway Colorado’s Roadless Areas Task Force toward recommending that Gov. Bill Owens encourage the federal government to grant full protection for roadless areas in Colorado’s national forests. The state Legislature created the task force after the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year rescinded a Bill Clinton-era rule that required the USDA Forest Service to protect more than 58 million acres that were deemed roadless. A new Bush administration rule leaves it up to states to recommend whether the Forest Service should open roadless areas to development. When Sierra Club members met at WestStar Bank in Glenwood Springs on Thursday night to discuss the White River National Forest’s roadless areas, Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop director Sloan Shoemaker cautioned the club’s members that roadless doesn’t mean wilderness. Whereas congressionally-designated wilderness areas like the Flat Tops or Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness areas prohibit mechanized vehicles of any sort, most roadless areas are wide open to motorized vehicles. Roadless areas are often criss-crossed with all-terrain vehicle trails, Shoemaker said. Roadless areas are only those areas within national forests that do not contain an official Forest Service road, he said. Roadless areas are not “wilderness-light,” he said, adding that roadless areas are often managed more liberally than wilderness. The Sierra Club and the Wilderness Workshop’s goal is to raise public awareness, spark people’s passions for roadless areas and get them to visit and photograph a roadless area. Then, Shoemaker said, people should come out in force at the June 21 Roadless Area Task Force meeting in Glenwood Springs, and write a letter to task force members supporting the preservation of roadless areas. Leslie Cook, an employee of Anderson Camps near Dotsero, a camp owned by the husband of Post Independent publisher Andrea Porter, is spearheading the Adopt a Roadless Area project. She said she believes roadless areas should remain open to hiking, biking, snowmobiling and ATV use, but roads should not be developed there. She said people need to show the task force that they care about roadless areas and don’t want them developed. Others at the meeting shared that sentiment. “It’s important to me because the government just seems to be taking over all the lands that people want to have for their own use,” said Maggie Pedersen, of Glenwood Springs. “They’re trying to be able to use it for (mineral) extraction, and I think that we have to draw a line somewhere.”Bob Millette, the club’s Roaring Fork Chapter chairman, said the Sierra Club is taking on the roadless issue because one of its primary goals is to protect public lands. “These are lands that belong to the people,” he said. “They’re being constantly encroached upon by industry, development.”He said the White River National Forest, which harbors 640,000 acres of roadless land, supports a multi-billion dollar economy based on hunting, fishing, backpacking and camping in the region. “People don’t come here to see the oil rigs and drilling pads, and clear-cut forests,” he said. “These are lands that feed our population here, this is what we live for in this area.”
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