Colorado Roadless Rule

Welcome to the U. S. Forest Service Colorado Roadless Rule

UPDATE

Roc Creek Roadless Area on the Manti-La Sal National Forest

The final Colorado Roadless Rule reinstating the temporary road exception for coal mining activity within the North Fork Coal Mining Area is effective as of April 17, 2017. The rule had been scheduled to take effect Feb. 17, 2017. However, the review period extended for another 60 days as part of the transition to allow the new Administration time to review new or pending actions.

BACKGROUND

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 allowed for temporary road construction and reconstruction for coal exploration and coal-related surface activities within a 19,700-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.

High Country Conservation Advocates v. United States Forest Service

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 to be in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act due to analysis deficiencies in not quantifying the greenhouse gas emissions from coal operations and coal combustion, and for not properly considering a public comment.

In September 2014 the court vacated the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule – Remedy Order.

Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement

To remedy the deficiencies found by the court, and to uphold the collaborative effort started by the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule, the Forest Service prepared a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The agency proposed to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception as written in the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule. The Forest Service also proposed three alternatives:

  1. No Action
  2. Reinstate the Colorado Roadless Rule exception for the 19,700 acre North Fork Coal Mining Area.
  3. 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 in the Federal Register to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement 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 Nov. 20, 2015, the Forest Service made a Notice of Availability available on the Federal Register and sought public comment. The Forest Service received more than 104,000 letters. Most were form letters and about 900 were unique letters. Four petitions also were received.  The Forest Service welcomes public involvement, an essential part of the planning process View submitted comments here.

After a review of the public comments and an internal review, the agency submitted a Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement to USDA and other government agency review, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget, Bureau of Land Management and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement

On Nov. 18, 2016, the Forest Service published a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Record of Decision and Final Rule

On December 19, 2016, the Forest Service published a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the Record of Decision and Final Rule.