Feb 8, 2012

Sportsmen, Outdoor Industry ask Obama to Conserve Colorado Roadless Backcountry

Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) published a three-quarter-page ad in the Denver Post yesterday, raising concerns about a proposal for Colorado’s 4.2 million acres of national forest roadless areas. The two groups are calling on President Obama to ensure Colorado roadless areas are at least as safeguarded as roadless areas in other states.

At issue is a state-based rule that would guide management of more than four million acres of valuable backcountry lands located in Colorado.

The appeal comes as a final version of a proposal that would replace the national roadless rule in Colorado is being formulated. It also follows a ruling by the federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the national Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which conserves roughly one-third of America’s national forests, along with the prime fish and wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities found on those lands.

The ad reads: “[Y]our proposed plan for Colorado’s roadless forests would open pristine habitat to commercial development, such as roads, drilling and power line construction. As drafted, it threatens the state’s best backcountry and multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry.”

OIA and TRCP maintain that standards for Colorado’s roadless national forests must be at least as strong as the Roadless Area Conservation Rule in order to gain support from the sportsmen’s and outdoor recreation communities and to ensure the responsible management of these important public lands.

Economics are an important consideration in managing Colorado’s public lands.  According to a report published by OIA, outdoor recreation contributes $7.6 billion in annual retail sales and services, generates nearly $500 million in annual state tax revenue and supports 107,000 Colorado-based jobs.

Under the draft Colorado roadless rule, however, massive power line corridors and increased energy development would be allowed. Sportsmen and outdoor recreationists have been heavily invested in the years-long development of the Colorado rule and remain committed to resolving its shortfalls.
“Sportsmen across Colorado want to see our 4.2 million acres of backcountry national forests kept intact,” said TRCP Colorado Field Representative Nick Payne, “but as drafted, the Colorado roadless rule allows development that would fragment some of the finest fish and wildlife habitat in the country. Hunters and anglers are depending on the administration to fix the rule’s shortfalls for the benefit of fish, wildlife and our outdoor traditions. The rule must be as strong as or stronger than the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule — nothing less.”

Colorado’s roadless areas are the source of about one-third of the state’s surface water, which provides irreplaceable access to hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. Elk and deer require Colorado’s backcountry to survive and thrive, and the headwaters of all the state’s major rivers are located in roadless lands.
“Colorado’s roadless areas provide world-class recreation experiences,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of OIA. “Protecting roadless values will drive Colorado’s recreation economy for generations to come.”

The national roadless rule conserves nearly 60 million acres of national forest lands in 38 states. It was the result of the largest public lands review process in U.S. history, with more than 1.2 million comments and 600 public hearings. The Oct. 2011 Tenth Circuit decision to uphold this policy followed a similar ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009.