On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the final Environmental Impact Statement for the final Colorado Roadless Rule, which provides conservation for 4.2 million acres of National Forest roadless area within Colorado.
The preferred alternative identified in the impact statement reflects the views and concerns of thousands of people through five public comment periods resulting in more than 310,000 comments. The final Colorado Roadless rule will be finalized a minimum of 30 days after the Final Environmental Impact Statement is published in the Federal Register.
The final rule and the public collaboration have received praise from conservation groups and others:
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), member, Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, committee on Energy and Natural Resources:
"This is a great example of a very thorough process, where thousands of Coloradans and stakeholders came together to work out a framework that makes sense for Colorado. I look forward to taking a closer look at the rule being published today, and to ensure its future implementation continues to benefit Coloradans."
Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), member, House Committee on Natural Resources
"Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Gov. John Hickenlooper acted decisively in announcing the release of the final Environmental Impact Statement for the Colorado Roadless Rule. This announcement marks the conclusion of a collaborative process lasting seven years and involving a diverse range of stakeholders. It is my hope that this announcement and the adoption of the final Rule will provide much needed certainty to Colorado job providers, recreationalists and all who value our state's abundant natural resources."
Durango (Colo.) Herald:
"Whether and how the divergent interests engaged in the roadless forest debate will proceed in implementing the Colorado rule will be illustrative of how ready each party is to look ahead rather than stay mired in a battle that is both worthwhile and ripe for resolution. The broad perspective is an important one to maintain in this case: No roads will be constructed on approximately 4 million acres of pristine national forest lands in Colorado. That is no small victory."
Chris Wood, president and chief executive officer, Trout Unlimited, and an architect of the 2001 Roadless Rule:
"While this is not a final decision, all indications are that the Forest Service is making good on Secretary Vilsack's commitment to develop a Colorado rule that is as strong as the 2001 Rule. Sportsmen and women in Colorado should celebrate the Forest Service and the state of Colorado's recognition of the value of backcountry areas to fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing."
Colorado Wildlife Federation:
"Coloradoans have worked together for six years to strengthen and improve the Colorado Roadless Rule for the benefit of the state's outdoor heritage. As a result the rule is greatly improved from the drafts, and we look forward to, on balance, a successful end product."
Nick Payne, Colorado field representative, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership:
"Today's announcement moves us one step closer to a Colorado roadless rule that will direct the management of backcountry lands in the state. Sportsmen applaud the rule's stronger safeguards for world-class hunting and fishing destinations in upper-tier lands such as Sugarloaf in the Routt National Forest and Hermosa in the San Juan National Forest."
Gaspar Perricone, co-director, Bull Moose Sportsmen's Alliance:
"The new Colorado Roadless Rule achieves a responsible balance between the development of our public lands and the conservation of Colorado's backcountry. The protections offered under this new rule will ensure the conservation of pristine habitat and robust fish and game populations that have made Colorado's public lands a destination for generations of sportsmen."
Colorado Mountain Club:
"The Colorado Mountain Club applauds the improvements to the Colorado Roadless Rule and appreciates the U.S. Forest Service for dramatically increasing to 1.2 million acres the "upper tier" of protected lands and the tightening of exemptions. These are a significant improvement from the earlier draft versions of the state-specific rule. The CMC's 7,000 members and the outdoor recreating public deeply value these roadless lands as places for hiking, nature watching, quiet contemplation and refuge from an increasingly hectic and mechanized world."