In response to a 2017 suit by Guardians and allies, a federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. Forest Service illegally approved a loophole allowing the coal industry—and Colorado’s West Elk coal mine—to despoil unroaded National Forest lands in Western Colorado.
The court held that the Forest Service illegally refused to protect 4,900 acres in the Gunnison National Forest’s Pilot Knob roadless area when it reopened nearly 20,000 acres to coal leasing and mining. Pilot Knob provides winter range for deer and bald eagles, severe winter range for elk, and historic and potential future habitat for the threatened Gunnison sage grouse. Hopefully, the court’s decision will ensure that Roadless Areas in Colorado’s North Fork Valley will be properly protected.
In November, a federal court in Colorado ruled for conservation groups in a related case blocking the expansion of the West Elk coal mine.
Read the press release.