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Major Victory -- Court Reinstates Roadless Rule

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21 October 2011, 5:28 PM
Decision climaxes 13-year legal struggle by Earthjustice
Meadows and ponds abound in a roadless area in Wyoming’s Beartooth Plateau. (© Nelson Guda, 2009 /

<In a major victory for Earthjustice and its supporters, today the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated The Roadless Rule, which protects nearly 50 million acres of National Forest lands against exploitation. Tom Turner, who literally wrote the book ("Roadless Rules") on the case, provides some background here.>

Toward the end of the Clinton administration, the Forest Service declared that most logging and road building no longer would be permitted on nearly 60 million acres of wild, unprotected national forest lands.

The so-called Roadless Area Conservation Rule was immediately challenged in nine separate lawsuits filed by states (Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, North Dakota), a few counties, and several timber industry interests.

Earthjustice immediately moved to defend the rule in all those cases, eventually devoting thousands of hours by many attorneys to the effort. Many major national groups became involved, along with statewide groups. The Natural Resources Defense Council was a key ally in Alaska.

The first ruling, out of Idaho, was a setback. The Rule was ruled illegal. With tenacious lawyering, that ruling was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Next, a judge in Wyoming also ruled the rule illegal.

Meanwhile, the Bush Forest Service joined with the state of Alaska in exempting the Tongass National Forest in the Alaska panhandle—the wildest and largest forest on the system, by far—from the rule.

The legal maneuvering was fast and furious for a decade. At one point the Bush administration replaced the original rule with one that would effectively turn over management of the national forests to the governors of the states the forests are in. Earthjustice made quick work of that ploy, getting it tossed promptly. Last spring, the Tongass Exemption was tossed as well.

Today's news is that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has just ruled that an injunction blocking the rule—at least trying to block the rule—issued by a judge in Wyoming, cannot stand and is overturned. The ruling was unanimous, which should help it stand.

There remains a little cleanup work in Alaska and Idaho, but it's looking very good for the forests.

If you want to explore the intricate background of all this check out Roadless Rules: The Struggle for the Last Wild Forests, published by Island Press, now happily out of date.

It is this sort of news that makes one proud to work with an outfit like Earthjustice. Not only does it have brilliant, energetic, and dedicated attorneys, it has the persistence to stick with a matter like this that can last a decade or more. I'd like to publicly recognize and thank the legal team that has, with yeoman effort, done so much for our national forests: Kristen Boyles, Jim Angell, Tim Preso, Doug Honnold, Todd True, and Tom Waldo.

There's mostly bad news in the headlines these days; this is most definitely of the other kind.

Learn more about this landmark victory for our national forests in the web feature, Major Victory Secures Roadless Rule, and explore the diverse wildlife and wild lands of roadless areas in a photo slideshow.

Winter comes to the South Siegel Roadless Area in Montana's Coeur D'Alene Mountains. (Terry Glase)

Winter comes to the South Siegel Roadless Area in Montana's Coeur D'Alene Mountains. (© Terry Glase)

From Maine--thank you! This is a fabulous victory for the forest, and for our children. Each member of your legal team deserves a "citizen's medal of freedom" for
their dedication to public service and protection of our environment!




The full impact of this victory will only be magnified as time goes by. THANK YOU! I could do little alone but together we can achieve more and greater things.

Sorry there is a typo below....In MONTANA there are 216 NOT 2216 archaeological sites.
Sorry for that.
Lets rejoice in this victory but we are running out of time. Please read my message below.
Thank you all for what you do to save our wilderness, wildlife and environment.

Even with this victory under our belts the war is not won. I hope you are all geared up to fight the KEYSTONE PIPELINE XL. TIME IS RUNNING OUT FAST! Are you ready watch them level a 300 foot wide 109.25 miles of forest? Will we let them cross through 46.0 miles of wetlands, 84.3 miles of drinking water areas, cross hundreds of rivers, streams and creeks with the pipe that will carry the worst oil possible? In Montana 2216 archeaeological and 15 historical structures will be lost to the pipeline. 91 archaeological sites & 61 historic structures destroyed for supporting power lines. In Nebraska 57 archaeological sites and 220 historic structures, in Kansas 2 archaeological sites, Oklahome 79 archeological sites, 29 historic cemeteries and other sites totalling 226. In Texas 212 archaeological sites, 40 cemeteries and 14 historic markers. It will also go through 63.9 miles of ecologically sensitive areas.
The only jobs this pipeline will bring to our country are temporary jobs to build it. Once it is operating it will take only a HANDFULL of people to run it. IT'S NOT WORTH IT!

Exactly what I was thinking as I read the victory e-mail, Brenda. I started to cry out of exhaustion, helplessness and pure rage. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will have the legacy of condemning this country to gradual as well as rapid deterioration of whole communities and our Quality of Life if they sign off on Keystone XL II. The politics of rage are nothing now compared to what it will be in decades to come.

The media is completely blocked out on this issue. I hardly watch politics on MSNBC anymore bec it all seems so futile, silly and all about the "cult of personality" repeated every night.

Ever since Rachel Maddow raved and raged at Exxon/Mobil CEO and showed a portion of the CSPAN hearing where he cavalierly said "there WILL be spills" there has been no discussion. There have been no more Repower America Ads that ran 24/7 in 2010 after the Gulf disaster and now Exxon/Mobil ads run constantly praising the discovery of hydraulic fracturing and how they are going to "do it RIGHT." Just talk to people in Pennsylvania who live near the Marcellus Shale.

Alleluia! Excellent work! I'm proud to have helped in a small way many years back. You all are amazing. I write this with deep appreciation for your tenacity.

Fantastic! Can you make available to us, perhaps via another email at an appropriate time, information regarding where we can find the actual text of the court's opinion? Thanks!

Thank you so much!

Thank you for all your hard work.

Congratulations! Thanks so much for all of your hard work! Our whole nation and Earth benefit. Best wishes for continued success.

Congratulations on a successful hard fought battle and thank you for a fantastic victory for the
The National Parks and all who believe in our natural treasures

Thank you with all my heart.

We have overcome! Thank you to EarthJustice for your tenacious good work!

Congratulations on a job well done! Finally we win one. We've been suffering too many losses regarding the environment and wildlife so this win feels like we can make a difference.

Thank you for all you do. Living in TX, it is difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel. I am proud to be a small part of this great victory. Now on to the pipeline fight that is so frightening for the quality of the scant water resources we have left here.

Although everyone can't backpack out into a roadless area, those of us who can do come back to tell the stories to whoever would like to hear: like the time we were in our tent with our dog, who started to 'wwoof' in the middle of the night. She was so scared, it was an under her breath,'wwwof...she was a city dog, unused to the immensity of the moment of what her senses were telling her. She had sat up, tense and alert. Sleep passed out of my brain like the darkness leaving a room when you turn on the switch. She was a half St Bernard,half Rhodesian Ridgeback, and she knew danger was here. I heard it, my partner woke and heard it, his form hardened like rock: a large, rubbing-against sound on the other side of the tent fabric. It was there, there a very long time as the dog and I sat taut, waiting for Maggie's warning to take effect. After some time, in the pained fatigue, I realized there was no more. We waited longer, not wanting to move and be known, to be wrong. Eventually we lowered our bodies part by part down to bed. -In the morning with the light, hungered from last night's mystery, my partner found - fresh, setting there next to the backside of the tent, the hugest pile of bear dung. Reflecting now, about how my body has unloaded when faced with terror, I imagine that bear, and they are big bears in the Yolla Bollys, could have been having an adrenalin response of its own. Or else it is more like the wild stallion near Pyramid Lake, who makes a 'stud pile' to be seen on our way to the stream. Wilderness leaves me with more questions than I come with, so then I must scout for who would know and am ready for engagement, only letting them go when I know a little more of what I need to know, enjoying the wake of goodwill in the sharing of it.

I think this is an important victory and would like to congratulate all that have worked so hard on this battle. It just makes sense to save these lands. I fear that the next battle will involve the federal government trying to sell off massive landholdings to raise funds, and there is a desire to do this fast in the House so the lands can be obtained by powerful industrial interests. Other battles will involve controlling hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking, since the industry has already proven it does not care about clean water or air and refuses to consider cleaner alternatives, and the massive Keystone XL pipeline that will lead to more devastation in the boreal forests of Canada as well as lands along the proposed pipeline. Industry is relentless in their lobbying efforts and may try to get their way in the House and Senate, and Obama has not been real strong on the environment thus far. Of course, he is indeed a lot better than most of the GOP candidates, based on some of their histories and comments about eliminating the EPA... something that must never be allowed to happen.

Why is it that if you & I dripped some oil in a car repair business, the gov, regulations board would
be on us, but if they allow horrible chemicals from a fracking procedure & it gets into every water supply they turn their head. All this devastation due to oil , when we are suppose to be becoming less dependent on foreign oil. The pristine forests are in jeopardy, our water in jeopardy, & everyone in charge turn their heads, with not so much as a feeling of guilt from the ruination of our earth.
I agree with your comments.

My sincere congratulations & heartfelt gratitude for all you do for the rest of us.

Outstanding work! We are a big outdoors-family and, for ourselves as well as for MOTHER NATURE, we thank lawyers for Earthjustice for their great work.

Great Work, and thanks coming from the Tongass!!

Please HELP!

I've been a supporter for years and am thrilled at your success. However I am obsessed right now in NY to try to stop the Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing that the gas companies are itching and ready to do ........... Please, send me some ideas on how to stop these wretched multi-national companies whose only purpose is to get richer for their stock holders. They could CARE LESS about Americans.

I have always felt this way about our land, water & sky, & now wonder why our gov
allows the fouling & devastation of this wonderful land. Allows fracking to foul the waters & allow harsh chemicals to be put in the ground, & water, so that people get very sick, & animals, & food that grows. Right now water in the mid west all the way to the east coast is almost black, & smells like petroleum.
There is a company in Canada I think called ENBRIDGE, & they want to put oil pipe lines & destroy a pristine area called the Great Bear Rain Forest, beautiful untouched by man, the reason for the beauty, & the beautiful clear perfect waters. In Canada they have 500 white bears left in this area, & by putting all these pipes with oil, & dredging roads up, this would really ruin this pristine area. Ruin THIS LAND FOR OIL??? I contacted Robert Redford for help with this atrocity & devastation & he did help out. Companies that want to destroy everything for greed must be stopped.
I appreciate your efforts in stopping the ones who don't care about our planet & water, & let us do what is necessary to keep it as it should be, clean & beautiful. Good job earth justice, & all of the earth lovers are with you.

Fabulous victory! Thanks for all your efforts and persistence!

Fabulous Victory! Thanks for all your effort and persistence in getting this job done!

I am so thankful for your hard work. I will continue to support you in any way that I can.
Let us never give up this precious legacy.

Don't count on the Obama administration to honor this court decision. He's not a liberal or progressive. He's just another Blue Dog on his knees to Wall Street Gangsters, Big Pharma,and Big Energy. He doesn't see the glass as half full or as half empty. He doesn't see the glass at all. With Bill Daley, Rham, and Davis Axelrod as his advisors and corporate lawyer Michelle as his wife how could he be anything else. He might be better that any of the Republican Cult candidates but he's Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor, Kent Conrad all rolled up in a black package. Time for progressives and the Tea Party GRASSROOT people to join together and change the rules for Congress.

We need more people like Mr. Turner in the fight.

congratulations, and thanks so much . . . you all ARE heroes . . . the world thanks you, too.

This is absolutely wonderful news. Although too old to do much in the way of visiting forests, I'm delighted to know future generations will have that pleasure. I have a question: Does this put a stop to Congressman Kevin McCarthy's drive to open up wilderness areas in Kern County and elsewhere in California. If someone will PLEASE let me know, it's important and your answer plus the good news needs to be put into our local paper: Bakersfield Californian, and I'd like to be the one who writes them about this result. (Not necessary that it's "me"... but I WOULD like to see this published so that the silent majority in this area knows there is a world of conservationists out there who are intelligent AND realistic....

Real Heroes doing 'The Work' that is so valuable to all of humanity and every living species. My hat is off to you!!
Thank you, Earthjustice!

Thank you, thank you for all you did and continue to do. Bless you for your endevours. We are now involved in our own battle against the gas industry in our little unspoiled ,rural and picturesque town of Minisink NY in the Hudson River Valley an hour north of NYC . Gas Compressor Stations are being fast tracked for citing in a zoned agricultural/residential area. Anyone interested , please see info on
Thank you ...David is fighting Goliath.

This is fantastic news!! Many many thanks to Earthjustice for making this possible. I hope that many more will come to appreciate and support your very important work.

This is fantastic news!! Many many thanks to Earthjustice for making this possible. I hope that many more will come to appreciate and support your very important work.

Most people think money, stocks and state of economy is wealth of a nation. I think forests are the real wealth of United States. Other nations may become the largest economy in the world but no amount of money or wealth can buy back pristine forests. United States is lucky to still have these surviving forests.

The forests that once dominated this nation were full of trees such as chestnuts, hemlocks and white pines on the East Coast and conifers such as redwoods and Douglas firs on the West Coast.

Around the arrival of Columbus, "it's said that squirrels could travel from tree to tree from the Northeast to the Mississippi without ever having to touch the ground," said Chris Roddick, chief arborist at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York. "In the old growth forests in the Northeast, you had hemlock that were six or seven feet in diameter, chestnut trees 200 feet tall."

Good job Earthjustice protecting what little remains.

Just want to say thanks.

Great work! Our future generations thank you! Keep us updated about Alaska.

Bravo! Well done. You guys are my heroes.

Congratulations!!! A win for this beautiful planet.

Onward Nature; may the Environment rule!

Wonderful, wonderful news about the Roadless Rule!

It's great thanks to you, Tom, and to the rest of the eco-warriors at Earthjustice for all that you have done -- and are doing -- in defense of our besieged planet. Bravo!

As our mutual friend and mentor, D.Brower, would say, "Let the forests breathe for the planet!"

I thank you all for pursuing this goal ; which proves that we collectively have the power using this cybernetic tool and I thank all those who participated and did not loose the faith that we could be effective this way and I ask you all to remember " This is but one stone in our path toward maintaining balance for the future generations " We have more , but then too : There are many of us . Let us all Stand Together and Strong .

Si Se Puede

Well done, you all! Keep it up.
best wishes

Awesome! The fight to preserve the health of the environment and our natural heritage is perhaps, the most important we can pursue. This victory shows important progress can be made, even in the face of an increasingly challenging legislative environment.

What a great victory! Thank you so much, Earthjustice and the team of dedicated lawyers, for your excellent work. I am so proud of what you have accomplished!


Wow! Fantastic news


You've made my day and then some.

Today I get to write a victory THANK YOU. A very welcome experience! Your persistence and excellent work are SOOOO appreciated, now and for decades to come.

Congratulations and Thank You!!

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