From Trout Unlimited DENVER—Hunters and anglers welcomed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s announcement Thursday calling for secretarial review of road construction or timber sales in roadless areas of the national forest system.
“Sec. Vilsack understands how important backcountry areas are to hunting, fishing, drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat. His personal interest in the protection of these vital areas is welcome news to sportsmen and women across the West,” said Trout Unlimited’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Wood.
“This is a welcome development considering the limbo many states are finding themselves in,” said David Petersen, roadless lands director for Trout Unlimited in Colorado. “Hopefully, Colorado and the Forest Service will take note of this action and use it to improve the Colorado roadless plan which, quite frankly, leaves a lot to be desired. Ideally, Gov. Ritter wouldn’t have adopted a faulty rule created by his predecessor and instead used the 2001 rule.”
Colorado and Idaho are the only two states to attempt to use the Administrative Procedures Act to create state-specific roadless land management plans Idaho’s plan is complete, and, in some cases, offers even more protection than the 2001 rule. Colorado’s rulemaking effort is still in progress, but, according to Petersen, its present draft is significantly weaker than the 2001 rule and would open up much of Colorado’s backcountry to road construction and associated development.
“Hopefully, Sec. Vilsack’s announcement will motivate Governor Ritter to take a longer look at the Colorado roadless proposal and make some needed adjustments,” Petersen said.
The Idaho roadless rule was unaffected by Vilsack’s announcement, and serves as a good template for Colorado, Wood said.
“The Idaho rule is a good example of what can happen when people apply common sense to common problems for the common good,” said Wood, a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee. He served on the RACNAC during Idaho’s rulemaking process. “We’re pleased Secretary Vilsack chose to leave the Idaho rule in place with his new roadless policy.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. It has over 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.