The Roadless Rule and You

The U.S. Forest Service has issued a Record of Decision for the Colorado Roadless Rule, thus concluding a nearly seven year process to determine the management of the 4.2 million acres of Colorado’s roadless backcountry. These lands are especially critical to anglers as they are the headwaters to every major river in the state and home to the majority of our only native trout - the cutthroat. Colorado is one of only two states to participate in a state rulemaking process for the roadless lands within their state boundaries – the other being Idaho. So what does this mean for anglers and conservationists in Colorado?

The main thing it does is clear up the fog lying over natural resource management that occurs in roadless areas.

It is now very clear how management actions in these areas must be conducted. For instance, 1.2 million acres are now managed as “upper tier”, meaning these areas have greater protection and more prohibitions on the type of activities that are allowed. In these upper tier areas any new oil and gas activities must operate without occupying the surface of these lands. Also, any project in these upper tier areas must protect native cutthroat trout and ensure that these populations remain over the long-term. These upper tier areas have greater protections than they were afforded under the 2001 Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

As for the 3 million acres of non - upper tier lands – these areas are generally well-protected but have numerous exceptions tailored to Colorado’s economic drivers and unique management situations such as ski areas, the coal mining areas near Paonia and fire and fuels management in the Wildland Urban Interface or WUI .

Of course, this is an oversimplified account of the vast array of ramifications of such a detailed rule. However, you the reader, would be bored if I went into the excruciating details. Some people love this stuff though and I’m happy to talk with them about how the new rule affects their favorite backcountry fishing hole or their favorite waters far downstream, but still influenced, by the backcountry headwaters. If you find yourself in this category, please contact me. Or, if you want to read the rule for yourself, here’s the link:

The best thing about all this is that here in Colorado, we still have wild, un-roaded landscapes where you can be one with the stream, your rod, a babbling brook and nothing else. Make sure you exercise this privilege and take a youngster with you – it is priceless and irreplaceable.

For more information, contact Aaron Kindle at