Final CO Roadless Plan Adds Protections for Wildlife

On April 6, 2010, Governor Ritter released the State’s revised roadless plan and forwarded it to the US Department of Agriculture for review and approval.  IN CWF’s view, the revised plan contains important protections for wildlife, including the addition of 410,000 acres of habitat that had been recommended for inclusion by state wildlife biologists in 2009.  The plan would redraw roadless boundaries to include this important wildlife habitat that was left out of the previous state roadless plan and the 2001 federal roadless rule.

The Colorado roadless plan has been under development for more than four years.  CWF has furnished extensive comments to the state and met with officials, advocating that key wildlife habitats within roadless areas receive permanent protection.

The state also made a wise decision to designate the 8,900-acre Currant Creek area southeast of Grand Junction as roadless because of important habitat.  Currant Creek had been slated for coal development in the initial draft of the state roadless plan, but state and federal wildlife biologists, as well as numerous conservation groups including CWF, insisted that the area be protected.

The revised plan is a major improvement over the state’s initial effort.  It also will limit the construction of energy pipelines and road building for oil and gas development in roadless areas.  And it strikes an appropriate balance to limit timber cutting near mountain communities threatened by wildlife fire due to the bark beetle epidemic while allowing appropriate fuel reduction projects to take place.  New protections for the state’s native cutthroat trout populations are also included in the plan.

Protections for communities that are at risk for catastrophic wildfire is also in the plan, enabling treatments in roadless areas up to 1/2 mile from communities.  We had advocated that Regional Forester authorization be required to extend treatments beyond 1/2 mile.  The revised plan includes such a provision.

While the new state plan improves upon previous state and federal roadless plan, the state must take additional steps to protect habitat not included in their roadless recommendations.  We remain concerned about the removal of 8,200 acres near ski areas from roadless protection because of the likely impact on elk migratory corridors in some of those areas. We urge state and federal officials to take additional steps to protect these critical habitats that have become constricted by cumulative development.

Both state and federal land management agencies need to make sure they rigorously  regulate and monitor any activities that occur in or near roadless areas.