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Victory For America's Forests

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20 November 2011, 12:08 AM
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 /

Dramatic scenery of Bear Mountain in a roadless area in Colorado's Ice Lake Basin.
(© Nelson Guda, 2009 /

Spring blooms of fireweed in the Reservation Divide roadless area in in Montana’s Coeur D’Alene Mountains. (Terry Glase)

Spring blooms of fireweed in the Reservation Divide roadless area in in Montana’s Coeur D’Alene Mountains.
(© Terry Glase)

nature is beautiful

It should be painfully obvious to one and all that our political system is corrupt to the point that its only purpose is to serve its masters...i.e. corporate America and the wealthy/well connected minorities. The ONLY reason any legislation is ever passed to protect the environment or appease the masses is to curry favor in the next election. Even so it would appear that every attempt is made to delay/minimize/abolish/destroy each victory if it upsets the corporate steamroller.

Hooray for this victory, but keep in mind that the system is broken and will never be mended through elections or any other kind of wishful thinking. Only singular purpose and meaningful action such as this Earthjustice endeavor will ever prove successful. No politician can ever afford to be a friend to the environment or the masses unless enough people demand a tsunami of change!

Of all the environmental issues and battles America faces, there is none more important to me than the protection of remaining wilderness. I may never be fortunate enough to set foot in these wild places; just knowing they exist fills my heart with gratitude for all who have fought to protect them.

Many victories are marked by two steps forward and one step backward. It is important that the one step forward struggle continues. It is the only we way we can make progress against a much wealthier and better politically connected group of factions. When profit is the end goal, there is no greater motive for them. When the welfare of the people, it's stock, wildlife,
and quality of life is concerned, there can be no greater motivation, or higher goal.

Thank you for all you do

I can NEVER understand the rationales behind the despoilers of the environment. Are they so blind to reality and so selfish and greedy that they are willing to ruin -- indeed, enthusiastic about ruining -- the quality of life for their own personal children and grandchildren?

(This, sadly, is a rhetorical question.)

The Obama administration is has tried to stop every victory, by imposing another dumb proposal to defame the environment!!! Shame on you!!! He's no friend of the environment!!

You really want to know who claims sole responisbility for the abuse neglicence of the enironment? It is the anti-environmental Republicans and their lobbyists that are to blame, not President Obama. Those include lobbyist Dan Normquist and others like him, and even those tea party cuckoo clock politicians, they are the ones who are stirring up most of the trouble, and this whole mess is their fault. What could be even scarier about this scurge of right-wing Republicans is that they also have an agenda that can put strict limitations on our democracy and take away some of the freedoms we have enjoyed since The Declaration Of Indipendence. Yes it's true, that is want those right-wing republicans and lobbyist also want to do for this the U.S.A., and they have even openly talked about such unwanted limitations on our democracy. This goes to show how rotten those right-wing demogogues like Dan Normquist and Sarah Palin really are. Let's not forget The Religious Right and their organizations like The Promise Keepers. Yes, Obama takes little responsibility, but those right-wing republicans take up nearly all of the same old responsibility. Since our nation's founding, the United States has had the power to keep dangerous fools like them from seizing power. They not want to set back the progress we made on the environment, but they want to diminish civil rights causes, allow the religious right to form it's inquisition and even make the United States an oppressive nation. This is the type of landscape behavior that has made the United States 'the sick man of the free world', and it is those right-wing republicans and their corporate-lobby supporters, as well as the religious right that gives the American Way Of Life a bad name. They have caused the damage, they are responsible for this hateful and ammoral mess, they are the ones to blame and they will have to live with all this for the rest of their god-forsaken lives. Those who call themselves radical right-wing Republicans or belong in the Religious Right are
evil men and women do not speak for all of us, they only speak for their own dastardly causes and the corporate devils that run big oil and others like it. And plenty of them will burn in hell when they die of old age--or face the likelihood of getting themselves shot.
So the best way to deal with them is to shun them and isolate their own twisted over-bigoted ideas. Many of us just have to ignore them.

There is a wonderful, practical, world-wide organization called Trees for the Future ( which works both with tree planting and community sustainability. Check it out!

As a retired USDA scientist, I have been long irritated by the Forest Service's reluctance to preserve the people's lands against corporate greed. Multinational corporations have the money and political clout to pervert the system. Hooray for the 99%, and down with the 1%. Mega-tax the rich to expend on education and the environment!

Buck Farry!

our petition is called StopOakfieldWind

I applaud your efforts to save our beautiful national forests. In Maine we are having our own very difficult fight where funds from the Federal Gopvernment are being used to install wind turbine farms that are not efficient and despoil our lakes, mountains and wildlife. It is a travesty and a tragedy. We are petitioning the DEP and already have over 500 signatures as well as letters to the DEP- we know how challenging these fights are. Our earth deserves justice. These are the same historic woods and lakes where Theodore Roosevelt discovered the healing attributes of nature and houses the State Site Bible Point, where he would walk 5 miles to read his Bible in peace and beauty.

President Obama has fallen short on almost all environmental issues . Though supportive
of protecting historical sites/structures, he has consistently undermined efforts to protect
the Arctic Refuge, the Gulf from oil drilling - despite the catastrophic Gulf oil disaster .
He does not stop the mining...the coal mining horribly destructive to all the land, waters, wildlife, domestic herds and humans it affects. While there is much he could not and cannot do re his programs to benefit Americans without Congress supporting him - he does have the authority to protect our wildernesses - our lands, our waters, our wildlife...all national treasures that if destroyed - cannot return. Quietly...without strong media coverage holding him accountable...he gives the mining and oil drilling corporations the go-ahead.
The few that have been stopped or delayed [ hopefully the Keystone pipeline] has only been
because of massive public outcry to prevent them.

So please - in collaboration with the other environmental organizations - get the U.S. public to say no ...loudly...via petitions, phone calls...and get the media to show visually what will happen to our country if Obama continues to allow drilling and mining . Life exists on clean water and toxic-free soil. It does not survive on oil and coal.

Excellent commentary, Lorinda; thank you!

What about making National Forests Pesticide Free.
Might as well go after them on all the issues, they are all related.

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