Commissioners support EIS analysis of reinstating roadless rule exception

“The [Colorado Roadless Rule] was a collaborative effort”

by Alissa Johnson

The Gunnison County commissioners sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday, May 19 supporting analysis in a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) regarding the potential reinstatement of the North Fork Coal Mining Exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule. The exception would allow for the construction of temporary roads within the roadless area to allow for mining exploration.

The commissioners directed staff to draft the letter based on input from a May 12 work session, re-emphasizing the board’s position on the roadless rule exception. “The CRR was a collaborative effort between conservation groups, multiple industries and communities throughout the state. These groups came together to work towards shared goals of conservation and economic viability of rural Colorado. Concessions were made on all sides to reach a common goal. Gunnison County actively participated in those discussions and supported the CRR, including the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception,” the letter read.

The letter then outlined the commissioners’ stance on specific points related to the exception and mining in the North Fork area: the board recognizes the region in question as the North Fork Valley Coal Resource Special Area; the extraction of coal provides a valuable resource for the United States, Colorado and Gunnison County; the board has consistently supported exploring ways to capture the methane released from mining operations; consideration of coal mining must be balanced with consideration of recreational tourism, which is an important part of the primary economy.

“We support the process of the SDEIS of impacts that would be caused by reinstatement of the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule. We support the analysis of what the impacts of allowing temporary road construction for coal exploration and/or coal-related surface activities would be to the viability of coal mining in the North Fork, opportunities to recover methane and overall carbon footprint while ensuring a quality tourism economy,” the letter read.

The commissioners approved the letter at its regular meeting the morning of May 19 without additional discussion.

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