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Roadless Rule

<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.>

The long and winding saga of the Roadless Rule, adopted in the Clinton administration after an exhaustive public process, just took a new turn, though it smacks of desperation.

To recap, the Roadless Rule was put in place to protect 58.5 million acres of undeveloped and otherwise unprotected land on the national forests. The rule has been subject of nine lawsuits. An appeals court in Denver has yet to rule on a lawsuit out of Wyoming; the others have concluded with the Roadless Rule still standing.

Colorado is the most populous, developed state in the Rocky Mountain West. Despite all the cities and towns, highways, oil rigs and second homes, about 4.4 million acres of roadless national forest remain. And that’s in addition to the 3 million-plus acres of existing wilderness.

Last week we wrote about an effort by three Republican members of the House of Representatives to repeal the Roadless Area Conservation Rule that protects nearly 60 million acres of unspoiled lands on the national forests and to deny the Bureau of Land Management's authority to declare its unspoiled areas "wilderness study areas" and protect them until Congress can decide whether to give them permanent protection.

Three mad hatters--Steve Pearce (R-NM), Rob Bishop (R-UT), and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) are gathering--or trying to gather--cosponsors for what they're callling the Wilderness & Roadless Area Release Act, a law that would open national forest roadless areas and Bureau of Land Management wilderness study areas to development. This would put a bit more than 70 million of wild lands at risk.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, adopted at the end of the Clinton administration, banned most logging and road-building on the last 58.5 million unspoiled and unprotected acres on the national forests. It was immediately challenged by states, timber companies and other interests in nine lawsuits, one of which is still awaiting final resolution.

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