DENVER, April 6, 2015: Regional Forester Dan Jiron and Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Mike King provided notice today of proposed rulemaking to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule through a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).
In July 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture promulgated the Colorado Roadless Rule, a state-specific regulation for management of Colorado Roadless Areas. A component of the Colorado Roadless Rule was an exception for temporary road construction for coal related mining activities in the 19,100 acre area of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests known as the North Fork Coal Mining Area, located in Gunnison County.
In September 2014, the District Court of Colorado vacated the North Fork Coal Mining exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule due to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) deficiencies. In addition, the Court vacated a consent decision by the Forest Service for two lease modifications, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) companion decision to modify the leases, and a BLM authorization for exploration activities within the lease modification area.
The original Colorado Roadless rulemaking effort designated the North Fork Coal Mining Area specifically to facilitate the exploration and development of the coal resources in the area and address local economic impact concerns. The coal mining exception allows for limited temporary road construction to facilitate the venting and potential capture of methane, a necessary requirement for underground coal development in the area.
The coal lease modification decisions vacated by the Court will not be addressed in the rulemaking effort. Instead, they will be addressed in separate environmental analyses commencing later in 2015.
The current public comment period lasts 45-days, ending May 21, 2015. Public input received during this period will be considered as the proposed rule and draft EIS, scheduled for release late this year, are developed. The US Forest service will consider public input for the final supplemental EIS and the future proposed rule to provide management direction for conserving roadless characteristics within the area while addressing the State interest in facilitating exploration and development of the coal resources in the North Fork Coal Mining Area.
The notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of intent to develop the SEIS are available for review and comment online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/coroadlessrule until May 21, 2015.