here for a print (pdf)
version of this information.
individual roadless area in Colorado is vital to the wildlife, economy,
water quality, and overall vitality of Colorado’s landscape. In
addition, they serve as wildlife linkages that connect larger blocks of
core habitat, providing food and shelter as animals migrate between
seasonal habitat areas or disperse from their natal territories. For
this reason, roadless areas that provide core habitats and linkages
throughout Colorado must remain protected, intact, and connected in
order to provide these critical resources to Colorado’s wildlife.
Pine Creek roadless area in the
Pike-San Isabel National Forest
substantial elk migration corridor.
The Importance of Keeping Habitat Connected
Roadless areas that are adjacent to each other and adjacent to other
protected habitats – such as Wilderness areas and wildlife refuges – play a vital role in
providing connected ecosystems and habitat for wildlife in Colorado.
Preventing isolation by protecting
connections between major habitat blocks and wild protected areas is
crucial to maintaining the health of native wildlife populations.
Connectivity in some form is essential for most species, especially
large animals, which cannot maintain viable populations in small,
isolated areas. Large carnivores, ungulates, and other wildlife
that migrate and move to meet their daily and seasonal needs rely on
a system of connected landscapes and habitats in order to find
mates, food, and access to their summer and winter ranges.
Roadless areas in Colorado contain a diverse array of species such
as bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, mountain lion, black bear,
cutthroat trout, boreal toad, bald eagle, and peregrine falcon, as
well as a diverse array of plants and insects. Our National Forests
maintain this abundance of life, in part, because they still contain
significant stretches of relatively wild, connected, remote, and
undeveloped lands. (3)
The ability for wildlife to move freely through the landscape
advances seed and pollen dispersal, allows unoccupied habitats to be
colonized following an environmental disturbance, and promotes
genetic mixing among populations.
Because they are largely removed from the ecologically damaging
impacts caused by easy human access, resource extraction, and
housing development, large intact roadless areas are capable of
providing several benefits that are valuable to biodiversity
conservation, including: (3)
providing habitat relatively free from the encroachment of
protecting aquatic habitats from significant sources of
pollution and degradations; and
providing excellent “baselines” or “living laboratories” by
which to judge the ecological impacts of land management on
ecosystems open to more intense multiple uses.
Click to view maps:
Roadless Areas Adjacent to other Roadless Areas
Roadless Areas Adjacent to Wilderness Areas
Roadless Areas by Size of Roadless Area
Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project Wildlands Network Design Designations
Habitat fragmentation is a serious threat to wildlife. Highways,
roads, and backcountry routes fragment wildlife habitat, severing
historic wildlife migration routes and isolating wildlife
populations. Roads and travelways have cut the land into smaller and
smaller pieces, increasing edge habitat and presenting barriers to
wildlife movements. (4)
Animals like the
endangered Canada lynx need stretches of undeveloped lands
to maintain healthy populations.
Colorado Division of Wildlife
forest patch adjacent to a clearcut or road can experience localized
climate (known as a “microclimate”) changes that extend hundreds of
feet into the forest interior. These “edge habitats” tend to be
hotter and drier than the generally cooler, more moist, and
wind-protected forest interiors, leading to changes in plant and
animal species compositions. (4)
landscapes often block native species movement. For instance,
studies have shown that certain species, such as amphibians or pine
martens, are seldom able to successfully cross roads or clearcuts to
disperse to other suitable habitat. Eventually, populations of
native species can become isolated from each other as a result of
habitat fragmentation. This isolation can cause numerous problems
for native species, such as stress due to inadequate habitat
conditions (e.g., limited food sources or restricted seasonal
ranges) or inbreeding over time.
landscapes become progressively fragmented, remaining native habitat
patches may become so small that they are transformed entirely into
edge habitat and may be unusable for many native species. Even
relatively large remaining natural habitat patches may be too small
for certain species to persist simply because they provide
inadequate resources for feeding or breeding or because human
presence is increased.
comments to Roadless Areas Review Task Force, submitted Dec. 8, 2006
3 Southern Rockies Ecosystem
Project. 2004. The State of the Southern Rockies Ecoregion. Colorado Mountain
Club: Golden, Colorado.
4 Southern Rockies Ecosystem
Project, et al. 2003. Southern Rockies Wildlands Network Vision: A Science-Based
Approach to Rewildling the Southern Rockies. Colorado Mountain Club: Golden,