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First annual 'Roadless Recreation Week' in full swing, with governors' support

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August 12, 2010--Governors, mayors and outdoor groups like ours across the country are going "all out" in support of America's first annual Roadless Recreation Week, August 7-15. The Colorado Mountain Club and other conservation and recreation organizations are leading hikes, fishing trips, mountain bike rides and otherwise getting thousands of people out to appreciate some of the last pristine landscapes in our national forests - roadless areas.

Roadless Recreation Week highlights the importance of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, issued in 2001 to protect nearly 60 million acres of national forests, the last third of our forests, largely protected from logging, mining and gas drilling across the country. Colorado, with 4.4 million acres of roadless areas, is one of 13 states hosting events.

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Govs. Chris Gregoire of Washington, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Bev Perdue of North Carolina, and Ted Kulongoski of Oregon are among the leaders issuing proclamations to "recognize the recreational, environmental and economic values" roadless areas provide and that call the national roadless rule "one of the most popular federal policies ever developed." The proclamation notes that roadless areas are a source of drinking water for 60 million Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as recreation jobs in rural communities.

The USDA estimates there were 173.5 million recreation visits to U.S. Forest System lands in 2009, with more than 57 percent of those visits for activities such as hiking, mountain biking and fishing.

National forest roadless areas support important recreational, environmental and economic values," said Jacob Smith, Mayor of Golden, Colorado, who issued a proclamation here last week. "Roadless areas like Niwot Ridge, Mt Evans, Bard Creek and the Herman Lake are all right outside of Golden and provide outdoor playgrounds for our community, sources of clean water and wildlife habitats. We must make sure that our roadless areas continue to be protected for future generations."

People can have fun and show their support for saving these treasured places. Roadless forests are some of the best outdoor recreation areas we have in the state, and Coloradoans are enjoying their roadless areas even more today than they did when the roadless rule was enacted in 2001.

The first annual Roadless Recreation Week occurs as a federal court prepares to issue an important decision about the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The rule was issued in 2001 by the Clinton administration to protect roughly one-third of undeveloped U.S. Forest Service lands. It was the result of the largest public lands review process in U.S. history, with more than 1.2 million comments and 600 public hearings.

The rule has been the subject of conflicting court decisions over the past decade. In August 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling to reinstate the roadless rule for most roadless areas, but a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the rule is still pending. The Obama administration has expressed strong support for the national policy, and has asked the Tenth Circuit to uphold the rule.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter pursued a state-specific roadless plan as an "insurance policy" given the conflict in the courts over the national rule, but the current state proposal provides extensive benefits to coal and oil and gas interests.

Fans of the national forests can go to http://www.cmc.org/conservation/roadlessevent2010.aspx
or http://www.ourforests.org to find out about the week's activities in their area, and to learn how to support the roadless rule.