Want to understand more about this and the negotiated wilderness rule? Good article in yesterday's CB News: The Crested Butte News - Roadless rule debate ends up back on the teeter totter
This proposal gives much more than it takes away.
Roadless rule debate ends up back on the teeter totter
Written by Evan Dawson Wednesday, 26 August 2009 “These lands belong to all Americans”
Former President Bill Clinton created the National Roadless Rule in early 2001 as one of his last acts in office. Nine years and three presidential administrations later, people still question whether the rule is valid.
The Obama Administration has now entered the discussion, and many environmentalists hope that with the president’s support the rule can be implemented once and for all.
With several roadless areas surrounding Crested Butte (see map), the rule could have an impact on businesses operating in the local forests—in particular, the Mt. Emmons Project, Gunnison Energy, and Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s expansion onto Snodgrass.
The history of the rule is anything but straightforward. For the full timeline check Roadless Area Conservation Policy Chronology | The Wilderness Society
The 2001 roadless rule prohibits road building and timber harvesting on inventoried roadless areas of the nation’s national forests. It was suspended under the Bush Administration in 2005.
In September 2006, U.S. district court judge Elizabeth Laporte ordered the government to rescind the Bush decision, and the rule was put back into place. But in April 2007 the Forest Service and several timber industry representatives appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals—and lost.
On August 5 this year, after two years of courtroom discussions, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued an opinion in support of the original roadless rule, with a few exceptions.
That’s because an August 2008 decision by a judge in Wyoming prohibited the use of the roadless rule in three states—Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. A coalition of environmental groups started an appeal of that decision in the 10th Circuit and the discussions are ongoing. The Obama Administration is also looking to join the battle.
On August 13 the Department of Justice filed a notice in the 10th Circuit preserving the Obama Administration’s right to appeal the Wyoming decision. The Administration has not officially joined the appeal, but on August 15 U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack issued a moratorium on all development in roadless areas. President Obama also campaigned in support of the roadless rule.
“What we’re now seeing is the Obama Administration getting involved and advocating on behalf of the roadless rule,” says High Country Citizens’ Alliance conservation analyst Lawton Grinter.
Meanwhile, in 2006 Colorado began developing its own roadless rule as an “insurance policy” in case the 2001 rule was repealed again. The process of developing the state rule has been ongoing, and a new draft was issued on August 3.
But if the 10th Circuit judge decides that the decision to enjoin the rule from three states was incorrect and the 2001 rule becomes law of the land, Grinter says he thinks the state’s version will be voided. Idaho is the only state that successfully passed its own roadless rule into law. Colorado is the only other state that started one.
“Colorado started the process of developing a state roadless rule but they didn’t get it finished by the time Obama took office… There’s this weird limbo in Colorado that doesn’t exist in any other state,” Grinter says.
Furthermore, Grinter says the state’s rule, as drafted, provides protection for fewer acres of forests and grasslands, and allows for mining, power utility, and ski area development in roadless areas.
“Ultimately a national roadless rule is critical because these lands belong to all Americans. They deserve a national rule that preserves them for future generations of all Americans,” Grinter says.
“If we get a favorable ruling in the 10th circuit it pretty much seals the deal.” Grinter says. He thinks that decision will come within the next six months.
The local effect
If the 10th Circuit issues a favorable decision in the appeal and the roadless rule becomes final, it could affect several Gunnison County businesses. There are more than a half-dozen inventoried roadless areas within 25 miles of Crested Butte.
Mount Emmons Project community liaison Perry Anderson says the mine proponents won’t know just how the roadless rule could affect the operation until an upcoming feasibility study is complete. “Until we get some ideas out in the feasibility study we don’t know how it will affect us,” Anderson says of the rule.
Anderson says the study has been pushed back, but the Mt. Emmons project mangers still believe it could be complete by the end of the year.
Gunnison Energy Corporation has several natural gas operations on National Forest lands to the west of Crested Butte. Gunnison Energy president Brad Robinson says, “The 2001 rule will restrict or cause modification to certain of our operations. However, these impacts are not nearly as significant as the impact of the permitting and regulatory delays caused by not having a final rule and the continued litigation brought by environmental groups.”
The company is currently building a natural gas transmission pipeline, the Bull Mountain Pipeline, which crosses or runs adjacent to three roadless areas. Robinson says the pipeline will not be affected by any future decision regarding the roadless rule. The pipeline is nearing completion.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s development of the Snodgrass terrain expansion also glances through the Gothic roadless area.
CBMR vice president of real estate and development Michael Kraatz says even if the 2001 rule is fully reinstated, “The 2001 roadless rule does not prevent timber removal and road building inside special use permits issued before enactment of the rule in 2001. The Forest Service added Snodgrass to CBMR’s special use permit in 1982, long before the enactment of the 2001 roadless rule.”
U.S. Forest Service, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison district external affairs officer Corey Wong agrees. He says unless a future ruling alters the 2001 roadless rule the Snodgrass project would essential be “grandfathered” in.
“The 2001 roadless rule is not an issue with Snodgrass, and no matter what happens with it, it is not likely to affect Snodgrass,” Kraatz says.