Colorado Roadless Rule Protects Habitat while Addressing Wildfire Risk Mgmt

The Colorado Roadless Rule (CRR), resulting from a seven-year process, became effective on July 3, 2012. The CRR protects important wildlife habitat in 363 roadless areas consisting of approximately 4.2 million acres. Of that number, 1,219,200 acres are designated as Upper Tier; these acres receive special protections. CRR incorporates several trade-offs.

CWF, in conjunction with others, has worked hard and consistently during seven these years to help shape provisions that address Colorado. The CRR is not perfect, but in our view, it addresses the important issues in a reasonable manner.

409,500 acres were added pursuant to their importance for wildlife and qualification as roadless (following a study a few years ago by the former Division of Wildlife after one of the drafts of the rule was published- a GIS study CWF had urged after we performed an abbreviated analysis of the areas included in the draft and areas that were not included at that time). The CRR incorporates several trade-offs. 459,100 acres associated with the 2001 Rule “have been determined to be substantially altered” plus 8,300 acres for ski areas.

9000 acres of Currant Creek roadless area are protected, an area that is very important wildlife habitat. It is close to the North Fork coal development area, and, therefore, was in jeopardy of inclusion within the coal provisions (exclusions) of the CRR.

As to wildfire risk to “at risk communities,” 247,800 acres in Upper Tier roadless areas are within one-half mile of an at-risk community. Road construction and reconstruction will be allowed, as well as fuel treatments. Within Upper Tier areas, an estimated 6,100 acres ( 2 percent) are within one-half mile of an at-risk community. CWF actively commented during the last three years to help shape a feasible outcome on this aspect of the CRR.

The CRR says it does not affect the terms or validity of oil and gas leases that have been issued after January 12, 2001, the date that the 2001 rule was promulgated. The CRR includes 266,900 acres that are classifled as moderate to high oil and gas potential. 631,600 acres are classifled as high potential. Within the Upper Tier areas, the CRR requires a “no surface occupancy” stipulation on all future oil and gas leases. Continued temporary access across roadless areas is allowed to explore, develop and transport products from existing oil and gas leases that do not otherwise prohibit road construction or reconstruction.

Linear construction zones (LCZs) were allowed under the 2001 Rule. Under the CRR, LCZs are prohibited across the Upper Tier acres (except for reserved and outstanding rights; statute or treaty, or water conveyance structures operated under a pre-existing water court decree). The CRR encourages placement of LCZs outside of roadless areas when possible and co-location of powerlines, pipelines, etc. within roadless areas.

As to water, the CRR allows road construction except that in Upper Tier areas. But there is a linear construction zones exception for Upper Tier areas as to water rights with a pre-existing water court decree.