Last week the Obama administration said it will defend the 2001 rule by former President Bill Clinton that blocked road construction on millions of acres of national forests. The Obama’s administration’s filed its decision in a Wyoming case in 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. The Roadless Rule, issued by the U.S. Forest Service, affected 58 million acres of national forests in 38 states and Puerto Rico.
The court’s decision affirmed a 2006 District Court ruling in California that reinstated the Roadless Rule after former President George W. Bush gutted it in 2005. The 9th U.S. District of Appeals, in its decision last week, said Bush’s additions “had the effect of permanently repealing uniform, nationwide, substantive protections that were afforded to inventoried roadless areas.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, said, “The Obama administration supports the conservation of roadless areas in our national forests, and this decision today reaffirms the protection of these resources.”
“We are grateful that the Obama administration is upholding and honoring the commitment of the president to uphold and enforce the 2001 roadless rule,” said Kristen Boyles, a lawyer for the environmental group Earthjustice. The latest filing “shows that the Obama administration is going to stand behind the need for nationwide roadless protection,” Boyles said.
“This is a very positive, exciting development, because a favorable ruling in the 10th Circuit (Court of Appeals) would end the legal assault on 40 million acres of our roadless forests,” said Mike Anderson, a Seattle-based attorney and senior resource analyst for The Wilderness Society. “Having the Obama administration on our side in this important case adds to our optimism that the 10th Circuit will dispel any further doubts about the legality of the 2001 rule.”
Paul Turcke, who the BlueRibbon Coalition, predicted that the roadless “saga will continue.” He added, “I think it is unlikely this will end the litigation,” because a Wyoming case that challenges the Roadless Rule could result in another federal appeals ruling.
“It’s up and down like a yo-yo,” said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council. “It seems to be bouncing from one court to the other.”
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Mike Anderson, a senior resource analyst with The Wilderness Society in Seattle.