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Obama Administration Touts Colorado Forest Plan

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is praising a plan to protect 4.2 million acres of roadless National Forest lands in Colorado. 

The Secretary joined Governor John Hickenlooper and others to unveil a seven-year-in-the-making Colorado Roadless Rule at an event outside the Denver Museum of Nature and Science Wednesday.

"This is a good day for Colorado," Secretary Vilsack told a small crowd. 

Until recent months, the Obama Administration had signaled its support of a 2001 national rule protecting so-called roadless forests, and had defended the plan in the courts. 

But Vilsack said Wednesday he had changed his mind after extensive review of Colorado's plan.  He touted the fact that  it puts in tougher protections than the 2001 rule on more than one million acres of remote forests, while also giving exemptions to protect jobs in the coal mining and ski industry.

"I believe I can make the case today to the people of Colorado that what we are announcing through our environmental impact statement that’s being published today is a rule that is in my view better than the 2001 Roadless Rule," Vilsack said.

Reaction from environmentalists was less enthusiastic. 

They said the Administration should follow the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recent ruling upholding that 2001 Clinton-era. rule. 

Colorado and Idaho were the only states that drafted their own state plans when the Bush Administration first overturned it. 

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