The North Fork Coal Mining Area

Roadless area conservation has been an issue in the United States for years, but in 2001, the U.S. Forest Service put the Roadless Rule into place. The rule “establishes prohibitions on road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting on 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas on National Forest System lands” ( Conducting stakeholder analyses is often very useful, but in this particular situation, I predict that the outcome won’t be consistent with the results of the PAPI stakeholder analysis.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering reinstating the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Roadless Rule (Bonnie). The exception previously allowed road construction so that the surrounding area was more conducive to coal exploration, and now that the area is no longer exempt from the rule, mining for coal there has become an issue (Webb). There are many different actors at play, including the USDA, the environmentalist groups like Conservation Colorado, the state government of Colorado, and the owners and employees of the mining companies.

The USDA is a federal institution with a lot of influence over the potential outcome, making them a powerful stakeholder. They think that the coal produced by this area is more essential than the maintenance of the Roadless Rule, and the Forest Service says that this proposal could increase the area’s output of coal by 172 million tons from now until 2054 (Bonnie). Additionally, before proposing the reinstatement of such an exception, the USDA determined that no other rules or regulations would be violated by their proposal (Bonnie). Being a federal institution gives the USDA power, but it ultimately limits their proximity to the issue.

Environmentalists staunchly oppose the potential exception for a multitude of reasons, but their power is slightly more limited than that of the USDA. They do not have any legislative power or legitimate authority, so all they can really do is influence the opinion of those who do hold such power and authority. They feel that this exception would contribute to the degradation of an area that has been set aside for preservation, which violates the very concept of preserved land. Additionally, they say that allowing these coal mines to function would also “undo the greenhouse gas-reduction benefits of the state’s oil and gas methane regulations” (Webb). Conservation Colorado, a local environmentalist group, is especially close to the issue. Like the USDA, environmentalists are very interested in the North Fork Coal Mining Area because of the fairly large environmental impact they predict it would have if exempt from the Roadless Rule.

The state government of Colorado has a similar degree of power to the USDA, but is does not have the final say in the matter. The primary concern for Colorado’s government is the potential loss of jobs and revenue if the exemption does not pass, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has expressed his support of the exemption (Webb). The direct impact that the issue has on the local economy places the state government very close to the issue.

The issue directly affects the miners and mining companies, putting them at the forefront of the issue. Although the stakes are highest for these people, they may have the least power of the stakeholders mentioned so far. They represent a very small percentage of the population, and the only power at their disposal is indirect, as it comes from those who represent them in government. The miners are likely the closest in proximity and most interested in the issue at hand, yet they have the least say in the outcome.

Issues like this one are about one’s priorities. A market liberal would clearly vote for the exemption because of the economic benefits, while a bioenvironmentalist would support the continuation of the Roadless Rule because mining and construction would disrupt the delicate ecosystem present in this part of Colorado. I predict that the exemption of the Roadless Rule in the North Fork Coal Mining Area will not be reinstated because the environmentalists only need to make efforts to maintain the current state of affairs, while the USDA and Colorado’s state government would need to instate real change. Even though both the USDA and Colorado’s state government have more legitimate power over the situation, their goal is ultimately much harder to achieve.



Works Cited

Webb, Dennis. “State Wants Exemption to Roadless Rule to Help North Fork Coal Mines.” The         Daily Sentinel: Grand Junction, Colorado. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.


Bonnie, Robert. “Roadless Area Conservation; National Forest System Lands in Colorado.”    Federal Register (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.


“US Forest Service.” US Forest Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

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