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Report Slams Colorado Roadless Rule

There are more than four million acres of roadless forest lands in Colorado.
KUNC file photo
There are more than four million acres of roadless forest lands in Colorado.

Conservationists are raising concerns that a proposed “roadless rule” for managing rugged National Forest lands could threaten drinking water supplies in Colorado.  A report released this morning criticizes the Obama Administration’s plan for Colorado’s roadless landsthat offers some exceptions for coal mine and ski resort expansions. The study by the Oregon-based Geos Institute summarized in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation says about a third of Colorado’s entire water supply comes from protected, roadless forests, and it warns that further exceptions for development could pollute those headwaters, raising costs for cities and water utilities. 


"When you punch a road into an undeveloped area it has long term consequences that will compound over time," said the Institute's president and chief scientist, Dominick DellaSala, who led up the study.

DellaSala and his team analyzed data from across the National Forest system inventorying what lands serve as headwaters for cities, and how much cities and water agencies spend to treat water coming from forests.

"The best way forward on this is to make this rule as close as possible to the Clinton Roadless Rule, because it had more prohibitions in it to protect values like water quality," DellaSala said.

Colorado’s proposal would protect slightly less acreage than the original Clinton plan.  But its backers call it an insurance policy should the courts overturn the 2001 national rule. 

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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