By Lisa Young

Staff writer

Road construction in the Sunset Roadless Area of Colorado’s Gunnison National forest near Paonia has been put on hold, at least for now. The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was handed down Oct. 29.

The latest court ruling comes on the heels of a ruling in mid-September that granted the mining company the right to continue its operation in the Gunnison National Forest. (See: “Road into the Sunset Wilderness may proceed” — Oct. 7)

Following the September decision several conservation groups represented by EarthJustice filed an Emergency Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal in the ongoing battle between Mountain Coal Company and environmental groups.

The injunction (Oct. 29) prevents Mountain Coal, a subsidiary of Arch Resources, from further destruction of the roadless forest at the base of Mount Gunnison in the West Elk Mountains until a challenge from conservation groups is resolved, according to a press release from EarthJustice.

Although not a part of the litigation, Western Slope Conservation Center in Paonia weighed in on the court’s decision to halt construction as conservation groups continue to litigate the matter.

“We are heartened that today’s ruling blocks further road construction or drilling in the Sunset Roadless Area during the legal appeal process. This time of year hunters flock from all across the United States to the North Fork’s roadless forest lands, reminding us that our local economy is dependent on the conservation of our public lands. We think the court got it right to be careful with irreplaceable wildlands,” said Scott Braden, interim executive director.

Five conservation groups represented by EarthJustice including WildEarth Guardians, High Country Conservation Advocates, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Wilderness Workshop asked the court to order the Forest Service to withdraw its consent for Mountain Coal to begin mine expansion in the roadless forest and to order Mountain Coal Company to immediately stop construction, according to the non-profit law organization’s release.

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