DENVER – The Supreme Court ruled Monday it won’t hear a challenge brought by the state of Wyoming to the federal Roadless Rule. That means the Roadless Rule will offer a consistent protection policy for federal back-country lands from development for new roads, except in Colorado. The Obama administration approved a Colorado-specific Roadless Rule earlier this year. The Colorado rule was supposed to be an insurance plan if the Supreme Court struck down the national rule, offering restrictions at least as stringent.
But Earthjustice counsel Ted Zukowski says that isn’t the case in what became law here.
“About a million acres of land are receiving protection that’s arguably more strict than the national Roadless Rule, but the other three million acres, some of those acres have loopholes.”
He says those loopholes include potential road development for coal and other energy extraction, as well as logging, utility poles and ski areas. The Roadless Rule protects tens of millions of acres from new development nationwide. Idaho is the only other state which has its own Roadless Rule.
Earthjustice was among those fighting against the Wyoming challenge to the Roadless Rule. And Zukowski says that, while the decision is bad news for Colorado, it’s good for the rest of the nation.
“Most of these lands are lands that are rugged, they’re remote. These are some of our last, best wild places.”
Zukowski adds that the problems with the Colorado version of the rule are evident: just a few weeks after the Colorado Roadless Rule became law in July, the Forest Service approved a plan to expand roads for a coal mine in Paonia, just a stone’s throw from the West Elk Wilderness.
“Those chickens are coming home to roost. An expansion of the West Elk mine will result in 6.5 miles of road and 48 well pads in a 1,700-acre area.”
Earthjustice is currently challenging that decision. A ruling is expected in early November.