Outdoor Industry Pushed Colorado Roadless Protections
Under a Colorado roadless area protection plan announced last week, 4.2 million acres of pristine Colorado backcountry will remain that way. Working collaboratively, Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA), the Outdoor Alliance and the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership lobbied the Obama administration and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to maximize roadless values and minimize intrusions from energy, utility and water interests.
The Colorado rule gives “upper tier” protection to 1.2 million acres. The remaining 3 million acres receive a slightly lesser level of protection, with more possible exceptions for utility corridors, mineral extraction and temporary roads. While OIA recognizes the need to keep some of the acreage open to such exceptions, we would like to see more of the total acreage afforded “upper tier” protection.
In protecting pristine backcountry, roadless areas represent a key element in the public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities that constitute America’s national outdoor recreation system. From the backyard to the backcountry, Americans want and demand a spectrum of quality, accessible places to get outside, connect with nature and play.
Roadless areas also help fuel the $289 billion outdoor industry and 6.5 million jobs in this country. Outdoor recreation is a leading economic driver in Colorado, with active outdoor recreation alone supporting 107,000 jobs in communities — urban and rural — across the state and $500 million in annual state tax revenues.
“Providing quality outdoor recreation opportunities in the backcountry is fundamental to the American way of life and our economy,” said Craig Mackey, director of recreation policy for OIA. “Colorado is home to OIA and 160 member companies. We know that public lands and outdoor recreation make our local economies run. Protecting roadless areas ensures a sustainable future for Colorado and our members.”
Often contiguous to wilderness areas — the highest level of federal protection— and forming large tracts of backcountry, roadless areas represent critical wildlife habitat and are open to bicycles and limited motorized uses on designated trails, garnering key political support from mountain bikers, hunting and fishing, and wildlife advocates.
The Colorado roadless rule pertains to lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.