Author Topic: Roadless Area Conservation; Applicability to the National Forests in Colorado  (Read 2719 times)

Offline Peter Vahry

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AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule and record of decision.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA or Department), is
adopting a State-specific final rule to provide management direction
for conserving and managing approximately 4.2 million acres of Colorado
Roadless Areas (CRAs) on National Forest System (NFS) lands. The final
Colorado Roadless Rule is a rule that addresses current issues and
concerns specific to Colorado. The State of Colorado and Forest
Service, working in partnership, have found a balance between
conserving roadless area characteristics for future generations and
allowing management activities within CRAs that are important to the
citizens and economy of the State of Colorado.

DATES: This rule is effective July 3, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Colorado Roadless Rule Team Leader Ken
Tu at (303) 275-5156. Individuals using telecommunication devices for
the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at
1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday
through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This preamble states the basis and purpose
of the rule, which includes responses to comments received on the
proposed rule, and serves as the record of decision for this
rulemaking. The preamble is organized into the following sections:

 Executive Summary
 Purpose and Need
 Decision Rationale
 Public Involvement
 Tribal Involvement
 Alternatives Considered
 Environmentally Preferable Alternative
 Roadless Area Inventories
 Comments on the Proposed Rule and Changes Made in Response
 Regulatory Certifications

Executive Summary

    The United States Forest Service manages approximately 14,520,000
acres of public lands in Colorado, which are distributed among eight
national forests and two national grasslands. These national forests
and grasslands are characterized by a diverse array of landscapes,
ecosystems, natural resources, and land use activities.
    In January 2001, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (2001 Roadless
Rule) was adopted into regulation. The 2001 Roadless Rule has been the
subject of litigation for more than a decade, and is now currently in
effect. Uncertainty about the future of the 2001 Roadless Rule, along
with state-specific concerns, was a key factor that influenced Colorado
to initiate a petition to manage roadless areas in Colorado in 2005.
    The Department, the Forest Service, and the State of Colorado agree
that a need exists to provide management direction for roadless areas
in Colorado. In its petition to the Secretary of Agriculture, the State
of Colorado indicated a need to develop regulations for the management
of Colorado's roadless areas for the following reasons:

     Roadless areas are important because they are, among other
things, sources of drinking water, important fish and wildlife habitat,
semi-primitive or primitive recreation areas, including motorized and
non-motorized recreation opportunities, and naturally appearing
landscapes. A need exists to provide for the conservation and
management of roadless area characteristics.
     The Department, the Forest Service, and the State of
Colorado recognize that timber cutting, sale, or removal and road
construction/reconstruction have the greatest likelihood of altering
and fragmenting landscapes, resulting in immediate, long-term loss of
roadless area characteristics. Therefore, there is a need to generally
prohibit these activities in roadless areas. Some have argued that
linear construction zones (LCZs) also need to be restricted.
     A need exists to accommodate state-specific situations and
concerns in Colorado's roadless areas. These include the following:
    [cir] Reducing the risk of wildfire to communities and municipal
water supply systems
    [cir] Facilitating exploration and development of coal resources in
the North Fork coal mining area
    [cir] Permitting construction and maintenance of water conveyance
    [cir] Restricting LCZs, while permitting access to current and
future electrical power lines
    [cir] Accommodating existing permitted or allocated ski areas
     There is a need to ensure that Colorado Roadless Areas
(CRAs) are accurately mapped.

    The major provisions of the proposed rule would establish a system
of CRAs with management direction to conserve roadless area
characteristics. These areas would replace the roadless areas
identified in the 2001 Roadless Rule for national forests in Colorado.
The proposed rule conserves roadless area characteristics by
prohibiting tree cutting, sale, or removal; road construction and
reconstruction; and LCZs, with some limited exceptions. In addition,
the rule establishes a system of upper tier acres within CRAs where
additional restrictions apply, further limiting exceptions to the
    The proposed CRAs encompass approximately 4.19 million acres of NFS
land in Colorado, distributed among 363 separate roadless areas. The
Colorado Roadless Rule provides for future adjustments to be made to
CRA boundaries, subject to a public review and comment period, and
applicable NEPA or other requirements. In addition, the rule provides
for administrative corrections (defined as adjustments to remedy
clerical and mapping errors) to upper tier boundaries, subject to a
public review and comment period.
    The rule adjusted roadless area boundaries from the 2001 inventory
in the following ways:
     Correcting mapping errors that primarily resulted from
improvements in inventory data and mapping technology.
     Excluding private land.
     Excluding land substantially altered by road construction
and timber harvest activities.
     Excluding ski areas under permit or lands allocated in
forest plans to ski area development.
     Excluding Congressionally designated lands, such as
wilderness and other designations, that take legal precedence over
roadless area regulations.
     Including unroaded areas outside IRAs that contain
roadless area characteristics.
    Official CRA and upper tier locations are contained in a set of
maps at the Forest Service national headquarters. The Forest Service
national headquarters office would maintain the official map of CRAs,
including records of adjustments to such maps, pursuant to the final
proposed rule. These maps will be available to the public.
    The rule is expected to have a beneficial economic impact of about
$65,000,000 per year, which is not considered to be economically
significant under Executive Order (E.O.) 12866, Regulatory Planning and
Review. Even though this rule is not considered economically
significant, it is considered a significant regulatory action under
E.O. 12866 and E.O. 13563.

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