ESTES PARK, Colorado – During a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, President George W. Bush participated in a fire prevention and trail clearing project, and called for “smart management” of national forests to reduce wildfire risk. “I want to emphasize the fact that through good forest management we can do a better job of containing fire,” said Bush while walking along a trail in the park. “And I know there are some in our country that want to just, you know, let the forests fall apart. We’re not going to let that happen in this administration. We’re going to maintain them and we’re going to make sure that if there is a fire, it does as little damage as possible.” In what was reported as the first visit by a U.S. president to Rocky Mountain National Park in more than 70 years, Bush participated with a group of young people in a fire prevention and trail clearing effort high up in the mountains. At a picnic with the YMCA team, Bush praised the “wise public policy” being deployed at the park, calling for additional efforts to “thin out our forests, prevent the hazards of forest fire.” National and Colorado based environmental organizations held a rally including a mock forest of tree stumps and oil rigs, inviting Bush to visit wildlands in Colorado that are threatened by his Administration’s forest and energy proposals. The groups released an open letter calling on the President to protect the natural treasures on Colorado’s public lands by implementing a strong Roadless Area Conservation Rule and by restricting energy development on more sensitive backcountry areas. “Colorado and the west are targeted as a sacrifice zone for temporary energy supplies,” said Steve Smith, Southwest regional representative for the Sierra Club. “If this President and his cabinet will sacrifice a showcase jewel like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for a few months supply of oil, think of the devastation they would allow in lesser known but equally special places like Colorado’s forests and deserts.” The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, prepared during the Clinton administration, would have protected 60 million acres of untracked forest lands, including 4.4 million acres in Colorado. The Bush Administration withdrew that rule and is now taking public comment on its own version, with the announced intention of weakening it. “We urge the President to create his own public lands legacy by protecting our national forest roadless areas, and not just settle for photo opportunities in places protected by past Presidents,” added Suzanne Jones, assistant regional director for the Wilderness Society. Bush also spoke about the $5 billion maintenance backlog facing the national parks, and reiterated his pledge to eliminate that backlog. National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) senior vice president Ron Tipton called on the president to “devote attention to the natural resource problems of the park as well as to maintenance issues.” At Rocky Mountain National Park, exotic diseases are infecting wildlife, air pollution is poisoning alpine lakes, and insufficient funding is crippling the parks’ ability to monitor invasive plant species adequately, Tipton warned. “While we appreciate the Bush Administration’s proposed funding to correct some of the problems in our national parks, Rocky Mountain and other parks need immediate assistance to protect valuable historical and cultural artifacts, wildlife and other resources,” Tipton added.