Sportsmen ask Ritter to keep his promise, protect Colorado’s roadless backcountry

Sun, 11/16/2008

Sportsmen ask Ritter to keep his promise, protect Colorado’s roadless backcountry

Nov. 17, 2008
David Petersen, Trout Unlimited, (970) 259-316
Joel Webster, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, (406) 360-3904
David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited, (303) 345-3491


Sportsmen ask Ritter to keep his promise, protect Colorado’s roadless backcountry
Governor should close loopholes allowing unnecessary development

DENVER—Gov. Bill Ritter should keep his promise to Colorado sportsmen and protect Colorado’s roadless backcountry by strengthening his state’s proposed roadless land management rule before it gains federal approval, representatives from three prominent sportsmen conservation organizations said Monday.

In a letter to Ritter dated Nov. 13, Trout Unlimited (TU), Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) reminded Ritter that he courted sportsmen during his gubernatorial campaign and indicated he would protect the best of Colorado’s fish and wildlife habitat from encroaching development. The groups asked the governor to keep his word by closing loopholes in the state’s proposed roadless rule that would allow unnecessary and intrusive industrial development in areas that provide not only critical fish and game habitat but also substantial hunting and fishing opportunity.

“We have been steadfast in our efforts to communicate to you the importance of keeping this acreage intact,” the letter reads. “Along with other sportsmen’s conservation organizations, clubs and associations, we have asked in recent months for the best possible protection of these backcountry retreats in the name of preserving our hunting and fishing heritage in Colorado, now and in the future.”

The state’s proposed roadless rule is scheduled for review Nov. 18 and 19 before the federal Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee (RACNAC) in Washington, D.C. The rule, as it is written now, includes provisions allowing significant road building and industrial development ranging from oil and gas drilling and coal mining exploration to ski area expansion that could negatively affect hundreds of thousands of backcountry acres.

“We’ve been asking the governor to engage and make this a better rule for years now,” said David Petersen, director of TU’s roadless protection work in Colorado. “These are irreplaceable lands that sportsmen have counted on for generations to produce quality hunting and fishing, something that is getting harder and harder to come by. Protecting them is something we simply must do, and the governor has always indicated his support for doing just that. It’s now time for him to make good on his word.”

Colorado boasts more than 4 million acres of inventoried roadless lands, which provide needed habitat for the state’s most robust populations of deer, elk and other big game animals. Additionally, roadless lands in the state provide stream, lake and river habitat for the bulk of Colorado’s imperiled native Rio Grande, greenback and Colorado River cutthroat trout.

While the state has made some notable progress with the rule—there’s hope, for instance, that allowances for full-fledged access roads for grazing leases won’t be included in the final rule—additional vigor is needed from Ritter and his staff when it comes to more significant threats to the backcountry.

“We appreciate the spirit with which the state is approaching the process,” said David Nickum, director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, “but there must be substantive improvements to the rule. It still is too focused on granting exemptions for various special interests and focuses too little on long-term protection for these priceless lands.”

“The rule, as it is written now, seems to take for granted the impact sportsmen have on Colorado’s economy,” said Joel Webster, roadless initiative manager for the TRCP and a member of BHA’s national board of directors.

“Fishing and hunting in Colorado is big business,” Webster said. “It’s a renewable enterprise, as long as the habitat needed for fish and game remains intact. The state’s proposed rule threatens that habitat and consequently our sporting heritage. We hope the governor will work to make the rule better, and we’re eager to help him craft a meaningful roadless management plan that will secure the future of Colorado’s outdoors traditions.”.”

Nickum and Webster, along with Ken Neubecker, president of the Colorado Council of Trout Unlimited, will be in Washington to testify before the RACNAC on Tuesday.

For more details on the value of Colorado’s roadless lands to sportsmen and women, visit{ED0023C4-EA23-4396-9371-8509DC5B4953}/Roadless_CO_final.pdf, or





Date: 11/17/2008


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