Opinion: Club 20 endorses proposed rule

RBC I Club 20 urged U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to adopt and implement the “Colorado Roadless Rule” as originally submitted by former Governor Bill Ritter in 2008. The proposed rule and the exhaustive collaborative process which was employed to develop it represent a thoughtful example of a coordinated multiple use approach to federal land management. It represents a consensus recommendation for appropriate management of Colorado’s forests developed by a diverse group of people who best know and utilize these lands.
Even though the originally submitted plan includes numerous compromises to strike the appropriate balance between various public land uses and was scrutinized through multiple public comment periods, Secretary Vilsack directed the Forest Service to “analyze the potential of adding significantly to the number of acres receiving a higher level of protection than the 2001 rule.” As a result, the Colorado Roadless Rule proposal now includes 562,200 acres designated as “Upper Tier.” Upper Tier areas provide for a higher level of protection than the 2001 Roadless Rule. Exceptions in the 2001 Roadless Rule to allow tree-cutting, sale or removal for species habitat and for maintenance and restoration of ecosystem composition and structure, including the reduction of risk of uncharacteristic wildfire effect, are not applied to the Upper Tier in the proposal.
“Changes of this magnitude deserve proper public input, and the thousands who have participated in this process should not be dismissed so easily,” said Bonnie Petersen, Club 20 executive director. “Club 20 supports the adoption of the original proposal; if changes to the rule are to be made, then they should be made through a fully transparent process. Rules and regulations developed in a top-down approach often result in a number of unintended consequences; local professionals know their forests better than anyone and should be very involved in any decisions regarding the proper management of the lands they have responsibility for. Club 20 has longstanding policies that oppose top down decision making processes, especially when they have not been vetted to the public.”
Club 20 is concerned about the designation of more than one half million acres as “Upper Tier” for a number of reasons:
n The Upper Tier designation, for this number of acres, was not given full benefit of the public process; indeed it was added as an afterthought minimizing the efforts of thousands of people who spent thousands of hours developing the originally submitted proposal.
n Forest management decisions should be local; forest managers know their forests better than anyone. A top down tiered approach often does not take into consideration local issues and concerns related to specific properties.
n Given the fact that there are nearly four million acres of beetle-killed timber standing in our forests, catastrophic wildfires could alter our landscape for generations.
n Communities near forests with large beetle kill stands will be at risk physically and economically should a catastrophic wildfire break out; designated community protection zones may not be enough to save a community.
n There is no provision for mitigation to aid in habitat recovery or restoration of scenic view-sheds in upper tier areas which could leave nearby communities crippled economically for many years.
n The cost of fighting a forest fire where hazardous fuels are abundant is more expensive in terms of dollars as well as threatened and non-threatened species, potential erosion and other impacts to the land than properly maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem.
Public comments are being taken on the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule through July 14, 2011. Comments can be submitted to COCcomments@fsroadless.org.