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It's Game Over for Foes of National Forests

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
26 March 2013, 9:47 AM
Roadless Rule—and 50+ million forested acres—survive test of time
Spring blooms of fireweed in the Reservation Divide roadless area in Montana’s Coeur D’Alene Mountains. (© Terry Glase)

Time has run out for the enemies of roadless wilderness. They spent 12 years trying to kill the national law protecting our forests, and yesterday a federal district court said they couldn’t have a minute more—the statute of limitations had run out.

This means you better grab a compass when heading into a national forest because you can get lost amid all the trees saved by this law, known as the Roadless Rule.

The Rule, signed into existence by President Bill Clinton as he left office in 2001, keeps more than 50 million acres of forested public lands from being shorn by loggers and riddled with roads. The law ensures protections for the biggest sources of our drinking water, and assures sanctuary for many creatures, including us humans.

Hidden dangers: This scenic road is paved with toxic coal ash. (Francis Eatherington / Cascadia Wildlands)A huge stump is all that remains of a 650-year-old Douglas fir, felled in 1999 in Oregon's Mt. Bailey roadless area.  (Francis Eatherington / Cascadia Wildlands)

Although most Americans have always supported the Rule, some powerful political and business interests have always sought its abolition. National forests are tree farms to these folks, who sought to clearcut lands like a monk's head, leaving nothing but tree fringes to hide the slaughter. For eight long years, they had an ally in President George W. Bush, but the forests had allies in court—myriad Earthjustice attorneys who over the years fought off all attempts to dismantle the Rule.

One of those attorneys, Tom Waldo in our Alaska office with assistance from the Natural Resources Defense Council, led the successful legal effort that resulted in yesterday's ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The court rejected the state of Alaska's challenge that, while aimed at the Tongass National Forest, could have nullified the national Rule.

There are still some state exemptions from the rule being sought by Alaska and other states—and there is always a chance Alaska could appeal—but for all intents and purposes the national rule is safe. Says Waldo:

This is a complete victory for the Roadless Rule.

Just the latest reason why the earth needs a good lawyer.

Recreation, such as whitewatering, is abundant in a roadless area along the Cooper River in Washington. (Thomas O'Keefe)

Recreation, such as whitewatering, is abundant in a roadless area along the Cooper River in Washington State.  (© Thomas O'Keefe)   View slideshow of roadless areas »

Good job.

Swamp walking with my kids after heavy rains in Florida, we saw new life emerging from the tannin mix providing what the canvas needed to bloom in nature's beauty. We went looking for the elusive ghost orchid but found a rainbow of unexpected flora smiling at us from every direction. Awesome day!

Good news, but how many areas are still subject to logging?

I was born in 1953, one of 18 children, so I grew up poor. We did a great deal of camping, hiking, hunting, fishing because it was inexpensive and something the whole family could do and because it lessened the cost of living. My parents loved the outdoors. They loved teaching us how to relate to nature. They met at a rodeo in 1935 and so you have to know they loved horses, the Old West and life as it was then. I was on a horse when I was born and even before inside my mother, I was riding alone at the age of three and at the age of 60 I still ride up into Colorado's Rocky Mountains. It is like Nature is my church and the animals who call the woods home are but fellow church members. My partners told me that I had to be a good steward of all the Lord had given to me. I believe the 2001 Roadless Rule is in keeping with that idea. I have been an enforcement Park Ranger for Larimer County Colorado and then for the state of Colorado. In that capacity I met John Toppenberg who is with the Alaska Wildlife Alliance and he is a dear friend. I think that anyone who calls themselves a friend of the environment or animals or the wildlife have to understand how important the 2001 Roadless Rule is and how it must be protected. I am growing older and my access may become more limited in time, my grandfather was 93 when he had to stop doing so much, so I can live with that and hope others will see it the same way!

Their used to be a canyon, in the Yuba river country, with a stream in it. I first saw it on one of my first Boy Scout Hikes in 1957, As we stood above this small stream we saw trout nosing around the small pools, nice sized trout. Years later I was remembering this stream and those trout and I looked on a topo map of the area, trying to figure out which stream and canyon this was out of the many choices there were in this largely roadless area. I could roughly remember the topography of the area and I went back and hiked into a canyon I thought was it. 1972, 15 years later I was able to find this place and catch some of these wild cutthroat trout! It seemed like they had never seen a fisherman before, they fought over the fly. I went back 2 or 3 times over the next 10 years and it was the same, undisturbed wilderness. Always the fish were abundant and eager. Then one year I went back and there was a dirt road cut into part of the canyon, there were hardly any fish. That wilderness was gone, the creek was still there but it had lost the magic.

The air is being heavily poisoned by the Chemtrails. The Bilderberg group who are communists are murdering Christians. You can go to and protest against this.

This is OK-ed by the current president, since he and Bill Gates is in the Bilderberg Group. They used to meet in USA but now they do it in Canada, because people protested against them. They also have do with Monsanto and Dow producing GMO products, then poisoning them, now adding Agent Orange to it.

Obama promised to obey the constitution, but is now trying to destroy it.

The communist are terrorizing police dept, and furnishing them with new equipment, then this creates a Police State. They are now using Drones in the USA, to murder anyone they want to kill.

The communist are becoming wealthy due to the stupidity of people who buy and eat GMO foods. Young kids are toxic and then they do Chemotherapy and the kids die.

Now Leukemia and Cancer is now prevalent in NORTH AMERICA

The only ones surviving are intelligent, and eat organic and know what I know. The only way I will dye is by being murdered. I protect my self, with God's oils which a lot of humans don't understand.


I have so many wonderful memories from roadless areas I wouldn't know where to start. Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, California...backpacking and kayaking. Thank you for working to be sure I will still be able to enjoy these wonderful landscapes and, more importantly, that future generations will also.

Thank you for your work.
In the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota, they've been logging relentlessly and building new roads to facilitate more logging, including last year. Is this new ruling going to put a stop to that?

Unfortunately, the Forest Service does not list any Inventoried Roadless Areas within Chippewa National Forest:


HIKING the Fortress of the Bears, AK!

Woo hoo! This is a day brightener par excellence!


I cried tears of joy when I read your missive. These forests are so valuable and important to all of earth's creatures, and when they're gone...they're GONE.

Thank you...thank you....thank you.

Whenever I visit Yellowstone Park, I fly fish the Gibbon River beginning North of the main road. It is mostly rolling fields with high weeds, grass and few trees. It is a small stream in this area. As long as I walk very quietly, stay out of the water as much as possible and kneel or crawl on the stream bank to avoid scaring the fish, I catch and release as many trout as I want - 50, 60 or more in half or three-quarters of a day. They are mostly brook trout, but I have also catch a few rainbows and browns. It seems like they have never been caught, because once hooked they run, jump and fight fiercely. I have never seen another person when I am fishing as long as I am at least 1/4 mile north of the road. No roads, no paths, no people.

However, I do see a lot of wildlife - buffalo, moose, elk, eagles, hawks, etc. As long as I leave them alone, they leave me alone. One day about 10 years ago, I was slowly working my way upstream early in the morning, when I startled a female elk, who had been laying down in a tall grass thicket. She was only about 10 feet away when she stood up, and I was looking up at her. She was as big as a horse, but just stood there looking at me as I looked at her. In a quiet voice, I told her I was just fishing, and she could go back to sleep because I wouldn't bother her. I waded into the river and continued to fish, but I kept talking to her calmly so there would be no trouble. Instead of laying back down or walking away, she started to follow me. I just kept fishing, and she would walk up the bank in front of me, or lag behind as she saw fit, but she kept accompanying me, and I kept talking to her. It turned out to be a hot July day, so every once in a while, she would wade into the river and splash around and then go back to the bank. She even went ahead a little, laid down and then got up and continued to follow me as I went by her. I named her "Ellie Elk." At one point, she went ahead a little and started splashing around in the river, which ruined the fishing for awhile, so I sat on a big rock on the bank and started snacking on fruit and water. She came very close, so I held an apple out to her at arm's length and invited her to share in the feast. She actually got close enough to sniff it, but she wouldn't take it out of my hand. This continued for 5 or 6 hours.

Later in the day, I worked my way back downstream toward the road, and she continued to follow me. When I got about 2/10 of a mile from the road, a big bus pulled into a parking lot near the road, and out bounded a lot of Japanese tourists with lots of cameras. After they noticed this crazy fly fisherman and his pet elk, they started charging across the field to investigate and get close-up photos. That was too much for Ellie, who retreated in the opposite direction, and for me, who retreated to his car to remove his fishing gear and go back to his campsite. So the count that day was about 60 released trout and one pet Elk.

Just wanted to say AWESOME JOB Earth Justice. Myself and my children & grandchildren THANK YOU!
And let's not forget to thank Clinton too.

Brilliant job - well done!

Thank you for having the tenacity to fight the good fight for all these years. Savor the victory - particularly one so monumental! They are too few and far between.

I think this is Great glad it will stay the same.

Thank you

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