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More About Idaho's Roadless Areas

Idaho Roadless Area

Idaho Roadless Area

Idaho's roadless areas are of national and global significance

The roadless National Forest lands of Idaho make up the heart of the Northern Rockies the last great wild frontier in the lower 48 states. Idaho and the Northern Rockies are the last unspoiled places in the lower 48 states where most of the wildlife species that characterized the region before European settlement can still be found. The variety of landscapes represented by these roadless lands is unmatched by any other state outside Alaska.

First petition to move forward since Bush administration policy was ruled illegal

This petition is the first to be submitted by a governor following the September 20 court decision that the Bush administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it repealed the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The decision reaffirmed the 2001 rule, which is now back in effect, but Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey subsequently communicated to governors his desire to consider petitions to modify that rule on a state-by-state basis under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

Idaho's Petition is the First Effort by a State to Seek Weaker Protections

The Idaho petition is not only the first to be submitted under the APA since the ruling, but also the first to request a reduction to the protections afforded roadless areas. Previous petitions, by the governors of California, New Mexico, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina were submitted at a time when the administration's repeal of the 2001 Roadless Rule made it necessary to petition in order to protect roadless areas. All of these petitions asked for complete protection for all of the roadless areas in their respective states, consistent with the 2001 Rule. In contrast, the Idaho petition would remove roadless protections from at least half a million acres of irreplaceable roadless forests.

A 30-day comment period is too short

Given the national significance of Idaho's roadless areas, and the changes propose in their management, the thirty-day comment period is inadequate. The Notice of Intent (NOI) for the proposed rulemaking calls for a 30-day comment period and no public hearings. This is half the time period allotted for the comment period on the NOI for the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which in addition to having a 60-day comment period also included 187 public meetings throughout the country.

State of Idaho had previously argued that the process for the 2001 rule was invalid because it was rushed and did not allow enough time for public comment. In their request that the 60-day comment period be extended to 90 days, the state of Idaho wrote:

"Your agency should not be trying to ramrod a decision that will shut down eight million acres of Idaho land into 'a short time frame.' You should be honoring the spirit - not to mention the clear mandate - of NEPA by providing meaningful opportunity for public participation and careful, principled, environmental analysis."

The Forest Service, in the Notice of Intent specifically references, "the denial of requests to lengthen the public review period" as a reason for this new rulemaking process. The new process, however, reduces the public comment period to half that of the process it purports to improve upon, and has no public hearings, compared to 187 for the 2001 roadless rule.

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