Wilderness land to remain roadless (at least for now)

White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire, 1943. John Collier, American (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) 16% (122,000 acres) of this national forest is designated roadless area.

Denying a request for a rehearing made by the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association, the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld its unanimous decision in favor of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule last week.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was issued in 2001 to protect nearly 60 million acres, or roughly one-third of undeveloped U.S. Forest Service lands. 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 Bush administration attempted to replace the national rule with a discretionary state-based petition process, and Colorado became one of two states to pursue a separate rule for its 4.4 million acres of roadless areas.

The Forest Service has national and state maps of the inventoried roadless areas here, including a list of forests and grasslands by state here.

And of course, the friends of mining interests are active in Washington and there’s some talk that the issue may be taken to the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, Republicans in the House led by California Congressman Kevin McCarthy are promoting the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, which would essentially invalidate the 2001 Clinton rule. Dozens of GOP congressmen, including Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman in Colorado, are co-sponsoring the bill. Many Colorado businesses oppose the legislation, saying it poses “a serious threat” to the state’s outdoor-recreation-based economy.

It’s an election year after all.

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