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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)

As a strong environmentalist this is truly heart warming. When my husband and I went camping in the North woods of WI, I use to walk on the beautiful trails and and enjoy the wonders of nature. To think that could be destroyed by building roads in this area would break my heart.

I am just so thankful. I am so happy that the Earth has good lawyers such as Earthjustice.
Thank you. Thank you.

Winning EARTH JUSTICE issues is the winning of EARTH and it's life, finally the survival of HUMAN RACE.

This is very heartening; I am so proud to be an Earthjustice member at this very moment. Legal action is all they listen to, and you are good at it. Thanks, Trip!

Thank you very very much for working to preserve our forest lands and natural resouces against corporate greed. This is a major victory! THANK YOU!!!

I remember the day the Bush administration did this. I think it was only five days after 'taking' office. What a dark day that was. Unfortunately the first of many dark, dark days to come during that time. Hearing this news gives me some hope for the future. Thanks to you and the many others who have worked so tirelessly throughout the years. :D

I definitely hope someone pointed out the value of evergreen trees in providing oxygen and converting carbon dioxide. Anyone know the statistics on this?

Nice work - keep it up. How do I send this?

Love the work you have done for the planet! Thank you...I am sick to death of big companies taking it all and leaving NOTHING behind. The greed is sickening for sure.
How do you look that moose in the eyes and say it doesn't have a place to excell and live?
Keep up the great work!! Peace

Only one thing to say: WOO-HOO!!! (fBesides, of course, THANK YOU!!!)

A victory for the earth! Thanks to all who made this possible. We must cherish and protect our home and all of life on earth.

Earth Justice: What does your PR dept think of this idea involving elementary school art programs by ASKING SCHOOL CHILDREN NATIONWIDE, grades 1 through 6, to write thank you letters to Earth Justice (and specifically THE LAWYERS) - and write their letter as if "pretending" they are a wild animal (of their choosing) in a wilderness area and telling the lawyers why they appreciate the fact that [this particular animal] now has a safe place to live and have their babies so that children of all ages can come glimpse them in their natural setting. Contact Michelle Rhee as I think she would know W-H-O specifically to contact within the National Educational Association with this idea as she is now an independent agent, I believe; then, give them a name for this project, i.e., call it the "Choose a Critter Campaign" for each child to learn more about (so is also a learning process) where child incorporates something UNIQUE that they love about their animal and why they must be protected for us all, as they come to learn that knowledge is crucial to PROTECTING ALL PUBLIC LAND/WILDLIFE and, is a lifelong participation project.

Don't prematurely DI$¢OUNT the depravity of the Obamanible $UPREME ¢OURT!

Kristen Boyles, Jim Angell, Tim Preso, Doug Honnold, Todd True, and Tom Waldo, thank you so much for your tenacious efforts. This is a momentous victory for Mother Earth. You thanked me for signing, which I appreciate as we do need people to back you, but without your initiative, skills and determination, we would not have this good news to share.
Thank you for all you do and God bless you all and everyone who supported this legal team with their signatures.

Great work and have another urgent situation. It would be great if Earthjustice could help protect Eagle Rock in the Michigan UP from copper/sulfide mining of the Kennecott Corp. People have been fighting this for years to no avail, and blasting has commenced. This is not only deforestation and unprotected mining water not being properly contained that will be allowed to flow into the Great Lakes and our fresh water system, pollution and the health of all things that can never be recovered if this happens, but it's also devestation of a National Native American site that the Native People have been also trying very hard to protect. You can google Eagle Rock, MI to find more extensive information.

Thank you thank thank you for my children, their children and so on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Much love and gratitude to the attorneys who worked so hard. And much love and gratitude to all my fellow petition signers and Earthjustice supporters.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, what a wonderful gift to Mother Nature, and all of us.

Let's face it. You guys did 99% of the work, and people like me just signed something occasionally...but that's important too, We need leaders and we need all of us participating to some extent. Kudos to all of you, especially those mentioned at the end! Let's keep things going this way! Thanks and congratulations to YOU1

Thank you for your long and tenacious fight to keep the land as it is and was always meant to be-natural, pristine and untainted by humans' increasingly greedy hands. Sometimes I feel so helpless when I read all the bad news about the current congress and their corporate bosses. I am thankful there are smart and savvy environmental lawyers like you out there as well as reasonable and fair judges that can stand up to them, can stand up for what is right. You are a blessing to our planet!

Exactly Kim - I have could not have articulated it better!!!I am so happy about this victory I actually got a little choked up...natural beauty is the most moving. thanks so much to Tim:)

It proves that IF WE USE OUR VOICE we have a voice.

Wow! What a win! And what a relief that we can breathe easy for a bit. I am so thankful for all you do and to know that the Roadless Rule stands, as it should.

Sure those who want to make money from our National Forests are unhappy, but they'll be thankful in the long run. Beating up our precious wild lands in the name of profits is a poor strategy for our short lives on this amazing planet. My children and grandchildren and their children (unknowingly) thank you very, very much too.

A hearty Bravo Zulu to all involved.

I am consoled with the thought that the earth will not have to wait until we humans kill each other off before she is able to go about her business without our interference. Thank you all for your efforts. The children's stories I write deal only with how the earth and animals have the proper balance, tolerance and respect for the diversities of life, and that people need to learn from it. Now, because of your efforts, they may not become history books of how it 'used to be'. Good atcha, Mate.

I am SO HA{{Y! that this bill has passed & that our forests are protected for our children's sake, plus all the fresh air we will have that is released from the forest trees & vegetation plus the beauty of pure, running streams. I remember growing up in the country & my friends & I would take our horses & a bag lunch, ride thru the woods all day, forging our own trails & pretending to be explorers in the new world. If the bag lunch wasn't sufficent we could always go far enough thru the woods & go to a neighbor's house for a hot meal, I thank Nancy Watkins for this. She was my Sunday school teacher & when we broke bread at her table we learned how to be grateful for all of GOD's bounty, including our forests. AAHHH! the world was a much simpler, safer place, I just wish my children had of had these opertunities & dearly want to see my grandchildren to have them. Such a miracle to be riding along & see wild venus flytraps, dog-toothed violets, the horses could drink from a non-poluted stream, we thought it would go on forever but the need for expansion had to come in & now the forests are gone as we knew them, heart-breaking, but MAN always knows best, I wish man would leave GOD's plan alone, HE dosen't make mistakes on HIS design, and now we have a mess to clean up

I thank GOD for you--all of you, your perseverence, your sacrifice, your commitment. So many times I feel totally impotent; you keep me going when that light starts to fade! How I wish I had a more tangible way to express my gratitude--perhaps one day. Til then,
Thank you. GOD bless you all.

A wonderful victory! Many thanks from all of us who benefit from your hard work protectintg our environment.

Congratulations and Thank you so much! What a worthy cause...13 years up against lobbyists who I thought owned our justice system. This is very good news, indeed. Peace and Blessings to you all.

Thank You for saving our remaining forests and for all you do to protect our environment.

In addition to this particular issue, does Earthjustice cover other environmental issues involving National Parks? If so, there is a person in Maine who wants to donate 70,000 acers abutting Baxter State Park to the National Park Service. We can't even get a yes or no answer on a "feasibility" study from Ken Salazar or our Senators Snowe or Collins. Quimby is also willing to donate millions to fund the study. What a waste.

This news came at a time when I needed to hear some good news. Tears of joy are in my eyes. Thank you for your hard work. I thank God for folks like you.

I am so pleased to hear this news. A million thank yous and more for all the effort of Earthjustice. Keep up the good work as this current bunch in Congress and the GOP Presidential candidates want to destroy EPA. We and you won't let them! Again, my heartful thanks.
Fort Lauderdale, FL


Well done! Hey, I am not a lawyer but have come up with many out-of-the-box ideas along the way. How can I help?

I am truely so happy to be involved with a group that supports saving the evironment and aprreciates it's beauty!

Thank you!

Mark Y.

Really wonderful. Something positive has been accomplished.

Kudos for all the hard work.

Thank you, thank you - a million times for this persistent, exhausting fight for the forests.

The gov. of Idaho, who rejoices in the name of Butch Otter and loves to massacre his state's wolves, must be furious at the Denver court. How wonderful for the rest of us poor nobodies; my monthly donation to Earthjustice is rewarded a hundred times over.

it is truly a story of hardwork, sweat and tears...thank you so much for protecting and saving our natural forests and resources. i feel without our forests/trees/plants and the environment that is needed, we are cutting off our own lives! literally...oxygen is our needed element to live as human beings. forests/trees/plants, etc. keeps our lives healthy...takes away the carbon dioxide that can kill. we are so blessed for people who love and understand the basis of life itself. what good is money if we are not here to enjoy it? we must preserve what is the basis for life...our natural forests, trees, plants and the entire ecosystem of living on planet, earth.

There was a song I sang in Kindergarten and it went like this : "This land is your land. This land is my land. This land was made for you and me. Etc. " the land is for all to enjoy. It is not for profit. It is not for the government to destroy. I thank the lawyers who fought this battle and all the people who helped and supported them. I pray our land never gets taken away from us for profits.

AWESOME news!!!!! And endless thanks and kudos to each of those attorneys (and any & all other support staff) who did the actual tireless work to make this happen! :-)

This is the best environmental news I've heard for a long time. Thanks to all of you who worked for so long to get this done.

Thank you, thank you. The Tongass thanks you and I thank you.

Don Muller
Sitka, Alaska

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