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Protecting America's National Forests, a report by the Heritage Forests Campaign

Throwing The Fight

The Bush administration’s handling of the Roadless Rule was the subject of an October 24, 2002 analysis conducted by the Majority Staff of the US Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, which analyzed the new administrations review of the Roadless Rule. Of the 20,000 pages of documents devoted to this matter by the Bush administration, only one page discussed the substance of the rule. The rest dealt with strategies, tactics and talking points for overturning it without expending too much political capital.

According to the report: "In place of a focus on whether the rule should be modified, the administration concerned itself with tactics. The documents reviewed contained proposals and option papers discussing tactically how to achieve the desired result -- an overturning of the rule as written." Titles of the documents included "Talking Points and Options for Rescinding the Roadless Rule"; and "Privileged & Confidential: Rulemaking Options for Adjusting the Roadless Rule."

Many of the documents, including one entitled, "Privileged & Confidential, Rulemaking Options for Adjusting the Roadless Rule," expressed concern about the public’s "[p]erception of diminished concern for environmental protection," and that "opposition interests [would] make full use of the move in the sure to happen ‘blast the administration’ initiative around Earth Day."

The best case scenario, according to a document entitled "Roadless Options:" from the files of then acting Undersecretary of Agriculture, Dave Tenny was to, "[w]ait for the judge to make a final ruling that the rule is illegal and comply with the court order."

According to the Senate Staff report, a handwritten notation on the back of this document in the acting Under Secretary’s files states: "...let judge take rule down."

The U.S Department of Justice then began a process to ensure that outcome by failing to defend the rule in a suit brought by one of the nation’s largest loggers of national forest lands, companies, Boise Cascade.

The U.S Department of Justice made no comment in court on the merits of the rule or their case for its defense, but instead agreed with the claims of the plaintiffs, stating, "After a review of the Rule and the administrative record, the USDA shares many of [the plaintiff’s] concerns." And that, "the USDA shares plaintiffs’ concerns about the potential for irreparable harm in the long-term under the current Rule."

On May 10, 2001, citing the government’s concession that the rule was flawed, Judge Lodge issued a preliminary injunction suspending the rule’s implementation.

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