Roadless rule challenged by Colorado Mining Association

May 18, 2012

Making the argument to the federal roadless rule that that the word “roadless” as defined in the federal government’s rule is de facto wilderness and that only Congress has the power to create wilderness, the Colorado Mining Association petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the nation’s rule for protecting 58.5 million acres of roadless public forests — mostly in Western states.

Wyoming also is challenging the rule — trying to reverse a federal appeals court decision last fall in Denver, The Denver Post reported.

“A Supreme Court decision would enforce the boundaries between our respective branches of government and allow any permanent setting aside of millions of acres be the judgment and decision of Congress and not un-elected federal bureaucrats,” said attorney Paul Seby, who submitted the CMA’s petition.

“Congress never considered banning the multiple use of 58.5 million acres of lands forever — including whether to put them off limits to responsible natural resource development and forest health management,” Seby said.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last fall overturned a Wyoming federal court’s decision in 2008 that found the roadless rule illegally usurped congressional power to designate wilderness. The appeals judges backed up the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule that President Clinton passed in the final days of his administration — which prohibits most road-building and commercial timber harvesting on the large remaining roadless areas of national forest land around the country.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper last month unveiled a state-specific rule for managing the 4.2 million acres of roadless national forest in Colorado. This reflects a compromise, melding national “roadless” protection with local needs. It would give superior protection for 1.2 million acres while allowing limited road-building on the rest.

The Colorado Mining Association welcomed that state-specific approach to managing federal roadless lands in the state. Coal mines, ski areas, oil and gas drillers and loggers would be allowed to build temporary roads if the state-specific rule is implemented.

But CMA president Stuart Sanderson said that the industry still sees benefits in opposing the overall national rule.

The rule “erroneously includes areas in the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre Gunnison National Forest in southwestern Colorado where mining has taken place for more than a century,” Sanderson told The Denver Post. “If allowed to stand, the roadless rule will effectively prevent future mining operations on roadless lands, leading to a decrease in mineral and coal production, job losses and sharp decreases in taxes and revenues from the coal mining industry that are critical to local governments and public school systems.”




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