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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

November 13, 2003

Bush Administration Blocks Defense of Roadless Rule

Argues to Keep Citizens from Defending the Rule in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

WASHINGTON In an unprecedented move, the Bush administration filed a brief yesterday arguing that citizens have no right to defend the roadless rule, despite the administrationís failure to do so. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) wrote the Department of Justice Monday, urging the Bush administration to support the publicís ability to defend the rule in court.

"The administration is openly stacking the decks in favor of their allies in the oil, gas and timber industry," said Robert Vandermark, Co-Director, Heritage Forests Campaign. "By attempting to shut the court house door, they are stifling the voices of millions of Americans and making it easier for industry lawsuits to take down the most popular conservation measure in history."

In July, the Wyoming District Court enjoined the roadless rule, holding it in violation of NEPA and the Wilderness Act. The administration failed to appeal this decision, even though it conflicted with a 9th Circuit Federal Court ruling reversing an injunction placed on the rule by an Idaho District Court. Conservation groups, on behalf of their members, successfully appealed the Idaho ruling after the administration failed to file an appeal, or defend the rule in the original Idaho case. The 9th Circuit decision put the rule in place for the first time since the administration froze implementation in January 2001.

"Itís outrageous that the Bush administration failed to defend the roadless rule and is now trying to prevent citizens from defending their own national forests," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Conservation Advocate, U.S. PIRG. "Instead of working to dismantle the rule piece by piece, the administration should start protecting our last wild forests."

Yesterdayís action came as the Bush administration is analyzing public comments on its recent proposal to exempt the entire state of Alaska from the roadless rule. Alaskaís Tongass and Chugach National Forest are home to nearly 15 million acres of roadless areas. The administration has also signaled its intent to rewrite the rule entirely in order to give governors more power over our public lands.

The roadless rule is the product of more than 600 public meetings across the country, years of scientific study, and more than two million public comments. The rule protects 58.5 million acres of America's last unroaded forests in 39 states. Bipartisan legislation supported by more than 170 members of the U.S. House and Senate has been introduced to codify the roadless rule.

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Contact: Tony Iallonardo, NET
(202) 887-8855

Or, you can contact Jim Angell at Earthjustice, (303) 996-9621.

The Heritage Forests Campaign is an alliance of conservationists, wildlife advocates, clergy, educators, scientists, and other Americans who are working together to uphold protection of our National Forests.

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