In a devastating blow to the Colorado wilderness, the U.S. Forest Service has agreed to allow Arch Coal to expand their West Elk mine into 6.5 miles of roadless forest in Colorado. This means that as soon as Arch Coal gets the “ok,” they will begin leveling a formerly pristine part of America’s beautiful wilderness.
The ruling of the Forest Service came after an appeal by conservation groups, led by EarthJustice, who hoped that the agency would have the decency to prevent the dirty energy industry from destroying a vital part of the environment.
The appeal filed in September 2012 with the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regional Forester in Denver, sought to overturn an August decision affirming Arch Coal’s West Elk mine expansion into roadless lands that provide habitat for lynx, black bear, elk and goshawk. The conservation groups argued that the mine expansion violates laws meant to protect wildlife, air quality, and forest lands, as well as the Colorado Roadless Rule.
“Smokey Bear has turned his back on Colorado’s natural, roadless lands,” said Ted Zukoski, staff attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest environmental law firm representing the groups. “Instead, the Forest Service has literally paved the way for a coal mega-corporation to destroy real bear habitat. The Sunset Roadless Area is a beautiful forest of aspen and giant spruce, beaver lodges and meadows, a home for elk and hawks. This is a place the Forest Service should be protecting for all Coloradoans, not sacrificing to appease special interests.”
In February of this year, EarthJustice and the environmental groups they represent won a legal battle against the Forest Service over the expansion of the mine. During this fight, the Forest Service was unable to provide an adequate explanation of what they would do to prevent the destruction of the habitats of endangered bald eagles and lynx, as well as what measures would be put in place to prevent landslides.