In order to mine the dirtiest coal on Earth, a massive coal company is planning to bulldoze thousands of acres of Colorado's protected National Forests -- and the U.S. Forest Service has proposed re-opening a legal loophole that would allow them to do it! We have until January 4 to urge the U.S. Forest Service not to sacrifice our public lands for the profit of a single corporation.
In 2012, the U.S Forest Service implemented the Colorado Roadless Rule, which set aside 4.2 million acres of the state's National Forest land for permanent protection. These lands contain vital watersheds, pristine trout streams, centuries-old spruce trees, and critical wildlife habitat for over 300 species, including lynx, bears, peregrine falcons, and sage grouse. The area is also a big draw for hikers, anglers, and wildlife watchers, and its streams are responsible for providing thousands of Coloradans with clean drinking water. The Roadless Rule mandates that these publicly-owned wilderness areas be preserved in their natural state, untouched by logging or road construction. But, at the urging of Big Coal, the Forest Service inserted a loophole in the rule that would allow for the "continuing exploration and development of coal resources" in over 19,000 acres of pristine wilderness in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests.
In 2014, the District Court of Colorado determined that the Forest Service’s environmental analysis of this exception failed to meet National Environmental Policy Act requirements and struck down the loophole, but with the option of re-opening it in the future. Now, at the request of Arch Coal -- the second-largest coal company in the United States -- the U.S. Forest Service has proposed doing just that.
If this proposal is approved, it will pave the way for Arch Coal to fragment and degrade thousands of acres of irreplacable public wilderness, extract more than 170 million tons of coal, and spew nearly half a billion tons of climate-wrecking methane emissions into our atmosphere -- all for the benefit of a single corporation. Analysis by the Forest Service has found that allowing Arch Coal to mine in Colorado's protected forests would result in enough climate damage to cost the global economy more than 12 billion dollars from impacts on agricultural productivity, property damage, and human health. As our world leaders meet in Paris to reduce global emissions, it's ludicrous and insulting for the U.S. government to even consider giving away our priceless public lands to the coal industry. The costs of this proposal -- to our climate, our wildlife, and our children's health -- are simply too high.
If the U.S. Forest Service re-opens this loophole, it will set a dangerous precedent for our wild lands and our planet. It would undercut the U.S.'s commitment to reducing climate pollution at a time when the world is looking to America for leadership.
But it's not a done deal. You have the power to change it.
The U.S. Forest Service will be considering public comments before finalizing their plan, and this is our chance to speak out against this destructive proposal. We have until January 4th to remind the U.S. Forest Service that our public wilderness is a national treasure -- not a treasure chest for corporate profit.
Tell the U.S. Forest Service to preserve our National Forests by signing this petition, and don't forget to speak up on the Federal Register, too! Together, we will defeat this dangerous proposal and lead our nation, and planet, to a cleaner, greener future.
We, the undersigned, strongly oppose the United States Forest Service proposal to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule.
Re-opening this loophole will benefit one company--Arch Coal--while hurting the interests of American citizens. Colorado's roadless forest lands are a tremendous asset to the state and to the nation. They are a huge source of clean water for drinking, and provide more than 50 percent of drinking water in the West. Letting industry carve roads into Colorado's backcountry forests threatens that source of pure water with erosion and pollution.
Roadless areas are also drivers for Colorado's economy, generating nearly $500 million in annual state tax revenue. If this proposal is accepted, vital intact habitat for valuable wildlife species such as black bear, elk, goshawk, lynx and cutthroat trout will be degraded or destroyed. We must protect these lands, not slice them into pieces if we are to continue to lure wildlife watchers, hunters, anglers and a wide range of other outdoor lovers who support our economic well-being.
Perhaps the greatest reason to reject this proposal lies in the fact that further expansion of the North Fork Coal Mining Area will add 130 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The U.S. Forest Service's own analysis has predicted that approving this proposal would result in enough climate damage to cost the global economy more than 13 billion dollars in impacts on agricultural productivity, property damage, and human health. The costs of this proposal -- to our climate, our wildlife, and our children's health -- are simply too high.
As our world leaders meet in Paris to reduce global emissions, it is simply shameful for the U.S. government to consider giving away our priceless public lands to the coal industry. Such a proposal would undercut the U.S.'s commitment to reducing climate pollution at a time when the world is looking to America for leadership.
President Obama and climate scientists agree that if we want to halt the worst potential damage from climate change, we absolutely must keep some of the world's known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. The Forest Service should draw the line here, and prevent further coal extraction from our National Forests. These precious lands belong to the American people -- not to the coal industry. Therefore, we demand that the U.S. Forest Service reject this reckless proposal.