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Victory Stands For The Roadless Rule

Nearly 50 million acres of America’s most pristine public forest lands remain protected today, thanks to a decision this afternoon by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denying a last-ditch effort by the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association to overturn the U.S. Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation Rule, more commonly known as the Roadless Rule.

Earthjustice has been in the courts for the past 13 years fighting to protect the Roadless Rule, a landmark conservation measure that protects wild national forests and grasslands from new road building and logging. Protection of these forests secures vital habitat for some of our nation’s most sensitive wildlife. From condors of the southern California mountains, to grizzly bears and wolves near Yellowstone National Park, to migratory songbirds among the Appalachian hardwoods, many species would no longer exist—or would be severely depleted—but for the forest lands protected by the Roadless Rule.

In October 2011, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado ruled against the state of Wyoming and its allies in the mining industry and issued a long-awaited decision upholding the Roadless Rule against legal challenges. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Ever since it was issued in 2001, the Roadless Rule has been under attack by logging and resource extraction interests, certain states, and the Bush administration. So it was no surprise when, in December 2011, the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association asked for another hearing on their case against the Roadless Rule—this time before all the judges on the 10th Circuit Court.

Today, the 10th Circuit rejected that request, leaving the October 2011 decision in favor of the Roadless Rule as the court’s final word on the issue. This news marks yet another milestone in Earthjustice’s ongoing legal effort to protect roughly a third of our national forests, and nearly 2 percent of the U.S. land base.

These pristine lands are invaluable to the wildlife that they shelter—and to us. The great American novelist Wallace Stegner put it well:

Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste.

Today’s decision rejects that fate and replaces it with a vision of hope—hope that we can leave these lands free and wild for ourselves and the next generation.

Mt. McDougal, Wyoming Range. (Lloyd Dorsey)