3:26pm

Mon November 21, 2011
Environment

Conservationists Pressure Obama for National Forest Protection

A dozen Colorado and national conservation groups are renewing calls on the Obama Administration to enforce a national ban on development in "roadless" national forests and scrap a Colorado plan that they say affords less protections. 

The groups have taken out a full-page ad in the Denver Post that’s billed as an “open letter” to President Obama.

The ad comes one month after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturned a previous ruling that a 2001 ban on development in pristine forests had violated federal law.  The Obama Administration has said it favors a national ban on road building in "roadless" forests.  But Agriculture officials are still considering Colorado’s state management proposal. 

Jim Angell, an attorney with Earth Justice in Denver, argued on behalf of conservation groups in the case.

"It’s not illegal for the state of Colorado to have a state-specific rule," Angell said. "Idaho has one, for example, but the question is why we need one and whether it’s the wise thing to do."

Angell says Colorado’s plan would allow expanded coal mining and about 100 new oil and gas leases to be developed on previously protected national forests.  Colorado forest officials spent more than five years developing their plan and while it does have some exemptions, they say it offers even more heightened protections than much of the 2001 rule.