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for people who care about the West

An exception, not a ‘loophole’


Elizabeth Shogren’s “Latest” column in the Dec. 12 issue grossly mischaracterized the North Fork coal-mining exception to the Colorado roadless rule, as a “loophole.” The state of Colorado was never ambiguous with its intent to make provisions for the $1 billion-dollar coal-mining industry in the North Fork coal-mining area with its own roadless rule, and this, alongside many other exceptions, was part of its original 2005 petition. The provision was identified and deliberated for seven years in an open public process; some local environmental groups even supported it. This is not to deny that the affected coal mines have staggering greenhouse gas emissions and that such operations warrant scrutiny for their climate consequences. But to misrepresent the North Fork coal mining exception as a “loophole” obfuscates the history of how and why this exception exists. In today’s information (and misinformation) landscape, it’s imperative for professional journalism sources to be exacting in pursuit of accuracy. If reporting creeps ever slightly toward confirming suspicions of those who wish to cast any professional news source as “liberal lies,” then hope for continued democratic processes — like the one that resulted in this delicately negotiated compromise between landscape conservation and rural economic development — is really sunk.

Ben Graves
Paonia, Colorado