Forest Service weighs mine request to build roads in Colorado forest

Prodded by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the Forest Service is reviewing a Colorado coal-mining company’s stalled request to build roads in a federally protected “roadless” forest. The high-level handling reflects tension over efforts to preserve 58.4 million acres of relatively roadless national-forest land across the country. President Bill Clinton’s initiative to create the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule led to years of arguments — including government efforts to defend the rule today in Denver’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Colorado has proposed an alternative state plan for managing 4.1 million roadless acres in a way that makes exceptions for coal mining, ski areas and towns threatened by wildfire that want to remove beetle-killed trees.

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