Court ruling climaxes 13-year legal struggle
Young boy fishing in the West Fork Humptulips River by the Moonlight Dome Roadless Area in Washington’s Olympic National Forest. (© Thomas O’Keefe)
Last month, protection for nearly 50 million acres of wild lands was resoundingly affirmed in a court decision that will benefit future generations. After 13 years of legal battles by Earthjustice on behalf of our allies, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the Roadless Rule, a landmark preservation act that protects our nation’s wild forests and grasslands from new road building, logging and development.
The conviction behind the Roadless Rule, that we should protect pristine wild lands not only for the well-being of the last survivors of our wild heritage, but also for our own well-being, is one held by most Americans. The public outpouring of support for the Roadless Rule has been unprecedented. The Roadless Rule victory is living proof that the desire to protect America’s natural heritage lives on in us all.
But despite overwhelming public support for the Rule, the fight to uphold it has been far from easy and is still not over. Since the Clinton administration first began considering the idea of protecting the last undeveloped lands on our national forests, the Roadless Rule has been subjected to relentless attacks by loggers, miners and supporting politicians.
In the end we are confident we will prevail. The American public long ago shed the frontier belief that nature existed only to be exploited and is solidly behind protecting our remaining wild places. And we at Earthjustice are proud to represent that conviction in court. That is why over the past 13 years we fought more than a dozen cases and spent thousands of hours defending the Roadless Rule.
The Tenth Circuit’s latest decision helps ensures that pristine areas across the country—an area bigger than any of the states east of the Mississippi—will stay protected and continue to serve as havens from the modern world. Of course, the benefits of the forest go beyond the beauty and tranquility of the landscape; producing clean water for thousands of communities across the nation while providing irreplaceable habitat for imperiled wildlife species, including grizzly bears, lynx and Pacific salmon.
Yet, even as we celebrate the court victory, we know that the battle to preserve wild places will continue. Just days after the court upheld the Roadless Rule, the Obama Administration okayed a 1,700-acre expansion of the West Elk coal mine in a Colorado Roadless area.
Earthjustice is also currently involved in upholding Roadless Rule protections in Alaska and Idaho, which are still under attack by industry leaders and short-sighted legislators.
We will not waver in defending against these attacks. True progress, after all, means realizing what’s worth saving before it’s gone.
Dramatic scenery of Bear Mountain in a roadless area in Colorado's Ice Lake Basin.
(© Nelson Guda, 2009 / nelsonguda.com)
Spring blooms of fireweed in the Reservation Divide roadless area in in Montana’s Coeur D’Alene Mountains.
(© Terry Glase)