Welcome to the U. S. Forest Service Colorado Roadless Rule
On July 3, 2012, the Colorado Roadless Rule became effective with the publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. The Rule provides management direction to conserve roadless area values across 4.2 million acres of National Forest System lands within the state. It allows for temporary road construction and reconstruction for coal exploration and/or coal-related surface activities within a 19,100-acre area designated as the North Fork Coal Mining Area. It was developed collaboratively and achieved a balance between protection of Colorado’s roadless areas and uses.
In July 2013, High Country Conservation Advocates, WildEarth Guardians, and Sierra Club challenged the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule.
In June 2014, the District Court of Colorado Decision found the Colorado Roadless Rule Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) due to analysis deficiencies in not quantifying the greenhouse gas emissions from coal operations and coal combustion, and for not properly considering a comment. View the court order here.
In September 2014 the court vacated the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule – Remedy Order. View the court order here.
To remedy the deficiencies found by the court, as well as to uphold the collaborative effort began by the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule, the Forest Service is preparing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The SEIS proposes to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception as written in the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule. The Forest Service is proposing three alternatives:
- No Action
- The proposed action to reinstate the Colorado Roadless Rule exception for the 19,700 acre North Fork Coal Mining Area.
- Reinstate the coal-related exception for a reduced 12,600 acres in the North Fork Coal Mining Area.
On April 7, 2015, the Forest Service published a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register to prepare an SEIS to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule. More than 119,000 comments were received from the public.
On November 20, 2015, the Forest Service published a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register explaining that the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) and Civil Rights Impact Analysis (CRIA) were available for review and public comment. It was open for public comment for 45 days. View the news release here.
On December 30, 2015, The Forest Service published a Notice in the Federal Register granting an 11-day extension to the comment period to ensure that there was sufficient time for potentially affective parties, including States, to comment. The 11-day extended public comment period ended on January 15, 2016. The Forest Service received more than 104,000 letters, of which about 900 were unique letters, the majority were form letters. Four petitions were also received. View the news release here.
The Forest Service hosted two open houses/public meetings. 25 people attended the open house in Paonia on December 7. 47 people attended the open house in Denver on December 9.
Public involvement is an essential and required part of the planning process. Thank you to all who participated. View submitted comments here.
After reviewing public comments and completing internal review, the Supplemental FEIS (SFEIS) was submitted for USDA and other government agency review.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to publish an SFEIS and final rule in the fall of 2016.
The preamble to the final rule will include, the rationale for the decision (record of decision–ROD) and provides any additional clarification if needed.