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The Roadless Rule
Threats to Roadless Areas
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Protecting America's National Forests, a report by the Heritage Forests Campaign

In This Section


" About the Roadless Rule

" Economics of Roadless Areas

" Environmental Benefits

" Recreational Benefits

" Roadless Rule Timeline

Roadless Rule Status

The Bush Administration and the Legal Battle Over the Roadless Rule

The timber industry and its allies have filed nine lawsuits in an effort to undermine the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Currently there are conflicting rulings from the Idaho and Wyoming court cases. The rule was effectively the "law of the land" following a ruling by the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals reversing an injunction placed on the rule by an Idaho District Court. The Wyoming District Court recently enjoined the rule nationwide. However, because the Wyoming court does not have jurisdiction nationwide, the rule is still the law of the land and enforceable outside of Wyoming. This decision is now being appealed to the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.

Victory in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

On December 12, 2002, in a 2-1 ruling, the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the American people when it lifted an injunction on the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The 9th Circuit Federal Court ruled that the rulemaking process met all public participation requirements.

Following the companyís decision in August 2003 to end its purchasing of old-growth trees after 2004, Boise Cascade also dropped its name from the list of plaintiffs in the Idaho roadless case.

Adverse District Court Decision in Wyoming

In July 2003, Judge Brimmer who presides in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, ruled for the timber industry, in a move that enjoined the rule nationwide, holding it in violation of NEPA and the Wilderness Act. This ruling conflicts with the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruling reversing the injunction placed on the rule by an Idaho District Court. Conservationist defendants/interveners in the Wyoming case have already filed an appeal to the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.

Bush Administration Inconsistent in Defense of the Rule

The Bush administration failed to defend the rule in the 9th Circuit despite a promise from Attorney General John Ashcroft made at his confirmation hearing. In fact, the Bush Administrationís defense was so weak in the original case, their own arguments were cited by Judge Lodge in his ruling against the Bush Administration to impose a preliminary injunction preventing implementation of the roadless rule.

While the Bush administration chose to defend the rule in Wyoming, they chose not to appeal the adverse Wyoming decision to the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, despite the commitment by the administration to defend the laws of the land and the 9th Circuit Federal Court reversal of the Idaho decision.

Judicial Threats to the Roadless Rule

At the final hour, the Bush administration requested a 60-day continuance for oral arguments in the case against the roadless rule brought by the timber industry and the state of North Dakota that was scheduled for August 28, 2003. The Defendants stated their reason for requesting the continuance was linked to the administrationís intention to "initiate a rulemaking relating to the roadless rule in the near future...[and] that revisions to the Roadless Rule will affect this case." Since that time, interested parties in the case have been engaged in settlement talks.

On September 23, 2003, attorneys for the Bush Administration and the plaintiffs in the two North Dakota cases met with a magistrate judge to discuss potential settlement terms. These discussions are still ongoing, with further meetings between the plaintiffs and the Forest Service to be scheduled; but at this time no settlement has been reached.

As in the Idaho case, the Bush Administration opted not to appeal, but once again environmental interveners, represented by Earthjustice, have appealed. A decision by the Tenth Circuit Court is expected sometime in 2004.

In December 2003, the Bush administration exempted Alaskaís national forests from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule today, despite receiving nearly 250,000 public comments opposing the plan.

Photos of Forests