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Timeline of the Roadless Rule

The Creation of National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Policy


March 25 -- The D.C. District Court ended a challenge by the state of Alaska against the Roadless Rule. The case was the final litigation challenging the rule nationwide. The court held that no further challenges are allowed, because the statute of limitations has run out.


October 1 -- The U.S. Supreme Court denies a request by the State of Wyoming to review the legality of the Roadless Rule. Of the decision, attorney Kristen Boyles said: "With the Supreme Court’s denial of Wyoming’s petition for review, there should no longer be any question about the Roadless Rule’s legality."

Feburary 16 -- The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rejects a request from the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association asking for another hearing on their case against the Roadless Rule.


October 21 -- The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses Wyoming district court, upholding the Roadless Rule and vacating the prior injunction.

June 20 -- The State of Alaska challenges the application of the Roadless Rule to national forests in Alaska.

March 4 -- Alaska district court vacates the 2003 Tongass exemption and reinstates the Roadless Rule on the Tongass.

January 29 -- Idaho district court upholds the Idaho Roadless Rule.


August 13 -- The Obama administration appealed a Wyoming federal district court ruling that struck down the national roadless rule. The appeal will go to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

August 5 -- The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed protection for over 40 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging, and development.

July 13 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approves the award of a contract for the Orion North timber sale in the Tongass National Forest, making it the first roadless timber sale authorized since the Secretary issued an interim directive providing that he would review all decisions allowing logging in roadless areas of our national forests.

May 28 -- The Obama administration announces that Secretary Vilsack will review all plans for roadbuilding or logging in designated roadless areas for at least the next year. The review does not automatically stop upcoming timber sales in the Tongass, and excludes all of Idaho,

May 21 -- The Ninth Circuit issues an emergency stay halting expansion of the Smoky Canyon phosphate mine until it can rule on the appeal of the judge's earlier order.

May 13 -- District court judge ignores the Ninth Circuit and gives the phosphate mine owner permission to resume expansion into the roadless area.

April 10 -- The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stops expansion of a phosphate mine into the Smoky Canyon Roadless Area in Idaho.

March 18 -- 25 U.S. Senators and 131 Representatives send letters to USDA Secretary Vilsack requesting interim protection of all roadless areas.

March 10 -- Island Press publishes Roadless Rules, The Struggle for the Last Wild Forests by Tom Turner of Earthjustice, a history of the creation and defense of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

January 28 -- Earthjustice lawyers challenge the Idaho roadless rule in federal court.


December 5 -- Colorado and Administration officials agree to postpone finalizing the Colorado roadless rule until spring 2009.

December 2 -- Judge Laporte partially stays her injunction, limiting geographic scope to the Ninth Circuit and New Mexico.

November 26 -- District court denies Earthjustice's motion for a preliminary injunction in the Smoky Canyon phophate mine case.

November 4 -- Barack Obama, a supporter of the Roadless Rule, is elected President of the United States.

October 20 -- Ninth Circuit hearing on Administration's appeal of Judge Laporte's Sept. 2006 decision.

October 16 -- Final Idaho roadless rule adopted.

September 12 -- Earthjustice attorneys file challenge to an expansion of the Smoky Canyon phosphate mine in Idaho -- an expansion into two roadless areas.

August 29 -- Final EIS released on Idaho roadless rule.

August 20 -- Bush Administration asks Judge Brimmer and Judge Laporte to suspend their respective injunctions.

August 12 -- Wyoming federal district court issues a second decision (very similar to its 7/14/03 decision) invalidating and enjoining the Roadless Rule nationwide.

July 25 -- Draft rule for Colorado roadless areas released for 90 days of public comment.

February 28 -- State of California sues the Forest Service for failing to protect roadless areas in four southern California forest plans

January 25 -- Tongass final forest plan released.

January 22 -- 10-year anniversary of Forest Service proposed moratorium on road construction in Inventoried Roadless Areas.


December 20 -- Idaho roadless rule draft EIS released.

October 19 -- Judge Brimmer holds oral arguments on State of Wyoming's new lawsuit challenging the 2001 Roadless Rule.

July 5 -- Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denies State of Wyoming's request to reinstate intervenors' appeal of Judge Brimmer's 2003 case.

June 7 -- Judge Brimmer denies State of Wyoming's request to reinstate his 2003 decision enjoining the Roadless Rule.

May 24 -- Bills to enact the Roadless Rule are introduced in the House and Senate.

April 11 -- Colorado Governor Ritter submits roadless petition including exemptions for ski areas, grazing, and coal mining.

April 10 -- Federal Register notice initiates 30-day scoping comment period on Idaho petition for state-specific rulemaking.

April 9 -- Forest Service and timber industry appeal Judge Laporte's decision to the Ninth Circuit.

April 9 -- Parties in Tongass National Forest litigation reach "global settlement" that protects all roadless areas pending revision of Tongass forest plan

February 6 -- Judge Laporte issues final injunction, clarifying that the injunction extends to oil and gas drilling permits (as well as leases) issued since May 2005.


November 13 -- Colorado Governor Bill Owens submits the second state petition on the management of roadless areas in his state.

September 20 -- Idaho's Governor, Jim Risch, is the first to file a petition opposing most protections for roadless areas in his state, potentially affecting up to 9.3 million acres of roadless federal forests in Idaho.

September 20 -- A federal district court ordered reinstatement of the Clinton era roadless rule to protect almost 50 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from road building, logging, and development.

August 10 -- The Bureau of Land Management auctioned 20,000 acres of land in inventoried roadless areas in Colorado to companies that will explore them for possible oil and gas deposits, over objections from Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO).

Early August -- The Silver Creek Timber Company started cutting down trees in an Oregon roadless area, despite objections from Governor Ted Kulongoski.

July 12 –- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger files a petition seeking protection for all of California's roadless national forests -- more than four million acres.

June 21 -- The Bush administration approved requests from the governors of three Eastern states -- Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina -- to protect 555,000 acres of roadless forests within their borders.

June 10 -- Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced that he would seek a temporary restraining order to stop the Forest Service from moving forward with logging Oregon's largest unprotected roadless forest area.

June 1 –- New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson petitioned the Bush administration to protect all of his state's roadless forests, becoming the first Western Governor to do so.

May 22 –- The Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee reviewed the first of three petitions by Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina asking for provisions of the 2001 rule be reinstated for their forests.

April 19 –- South Carolina governor Mark Sanford filed a petition to protect roadless forest lands in that state.

April 5 -- The Nez Perce Tribe petitioned the Secretary of Agriculture to reinstate the roadless rule in order to protect tribal lands and traditional use territories.

March 9 -- North Carolina Governor Mark Easley petitioned the Bush administration to protect all roadless areas in his state.

March 2 -- Environmental groups submitted petitions signed by 265,000 people urging the Bush administration to reinstate the original Roadless Rule. The same day, Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Jay Inslee submitted a bill in Congress seeking to codify the original Roadless Rule as law.

February 24 -- The states of Montana and Maine filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of California, Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington.

February 22 -- The BlueRibbon Coalition and other anti-roadless organization moved to intervene in the litigation filed by states and environmental groups.

February 15 -- Idaho roadless supporters castigated Governor Dirk Kempthorne for hiring timber industry lobbyists to summarize public comments on the roadless petition process.

February 2 -- The state of Washington moved to join the lawsuit filed by California, New Mexico, and Oregon on the side of those states.


December 22 -- Virginia became the first state to file a petition under the Bush rule, seeking protection for all roadless areas in the state.

October 6 -- 20 conservation groups -- represented by Earthjustice -- filed a lawsuit in federal district court in San Francisco seeking to reinstate the original Roadless Rule. The case is similar to but somewhat broader than the one filed by the three states.

August 30 -- The attorneys general of California and New Mexico and the governor of Oregon, filed suit challenging the Bush administration's substitute Roadless Rule and seeking reinstatement of the original rule.

July 28 -- 146 members of the House of Representatives introduced legislation that would reinstate the original Roadless Rule and repeal the Bush administration's substitute.

July 11 -- The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal of the Wyoming injunction on the grounds that the new rule made the case moot. The court did, however, erase the Wyoming court's ruling.

June 8 -- Earthjustice Kristen Boyles sent a letter to the Forest Service notifying the agency that it had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service prior to putting the new roadless rule into effect.

May 12 -- The administration formally adopted the new rule with an announcement in the Federal Register.


July 12 -- The Bush administration proposed a new rule to replace the 2001 rule "with a petitioning process that would allow Governors an opportunity to seek establishment of management requirements for National Forest System inventoried roadless areas within their States." The proposed rule was praised by timber companies and universally derided by environmental organizations.

May 11 -- The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the intervenors' appeal of the Wyoming injunction -- the administration had urged the court to dismiss the appeal.


December 30 -- The administration formally settled the Alaska case and temporarily exempted the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule.

July 14 -- Judge Brimmer of the federal court in Wyoming found the rule illegal and issued an injunction that purported to cover the entire country. That ruling was appealed by intervenors represented by Earthjustice. It was not appealed by the government defendants.

June 9 -- The administration announced that it would settle a lawsuit brought by the state of Alaska by agreeing to exempt the Tongass National Forest -- and later the Chugach National Forest -- from the Roadless Rule. The administration also said it was working on a revised rule that would allow governors to opt out of the rule.


In December, a federal appeals court reinstated the Roadless Area Conservation Rule by reversing the injunction of Judge Lodge.

During the summer of 2002, legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to legislatively authorize the roadless rule. In August, the government actually defended the roadless rule in a surprise reversal. The goverment's brief was filed in another challenge to the roadless rule filed by the state of North Dakota and is the first real defense of the rule by the federal government. In this case, the government finally admitted the Roadless Rule was legally adopted.


October 15 -- Earthjustice attorneys presented oral arguments in defense of the roadless rule before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle. A three-judge panel heard Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold argue for a lifting of the injunction currently keeping the rule from being implemented.

May 10 -- Federal Judge Edward Lodge issued a preliminary injunction barring the rule from taking affect.

May 4 -- The government reported they would allow the roadless rule to go into effect on May 12 but would move at a later date to amend it.

March 30-- The government committed to completing its review of the rule, and said it would report back to the court in Boise on May 4.

On March 16, the administration delayed the rule a second time. In response to a court challenge seeking to overturn the new rule filed by Boise Cascade Company, the state of Idaho, and others, the US Justice Department "committed to postponing" implementation of the policy yet again.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman published an official notice in the Federal Register noting that the implementation date of the roadless rule was being delayed an additional 60 days from March 13 to May 12.

Usually a rule will take affect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. After it takes affect, it is law and can only be overturned by either an act of Congress or an official new rulemaking process. Unfortunately, since it caught the roadless rule in this 60-day window, the Bush administration could legally delay the roadless rule from going into effect.

In accordance with President Bush's Regulatory Review Plan, the roadless policy was delayed an additional 60 calendar days on February 5. This was the result of the so-called Card Memo from White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

On January 20, George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd President. His new White House Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, sent a memo from the White House in late January telling all the Cabinet Secretaries to delay rules and regulations pushed into place during the final days of the Clinton administration. The roadless rule was one of many new policies that fell under this description.

The roadless policy rule was published in the Federal Register January 12.

In January, President Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Policy directive, ending virtually all logging; roadbuilding; and coal, gas, oil, and other mineral leasing in 58 million acres of the wildest remaining national forests lands. The rule was the direct result of a tremendous outpouring of public support. More than 600 public hearings were held around the nation, and the public provided—more than 1.6 million comments on the rule -- more than any other rule in the nation's history.


On November 13, 2000, the Forest Service released a near-final plan. The agency proposed to immediately prohibit roadbuilding and commodity logging on 49 million acres of wild forests. In 2004, it would be expanded to include Alaska's Tongass National Forest, bringing the total acres protected to 58.5 million. Earthjustice worked to ensure that the final plan protected the Tongass.

In May, the Forest Service released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to implement President Clinton's plan. Under the proposed policy, 43 million acres of roadless forest would be protected. The policy marks an important first step towards the preservation of our national forests, but it did not go far enough.

The Wyoming Timber Industry Association's challenge was dismissed in January and Idaho's lawsuit was dismissed a month later as premature.


In October, President Clinton announced that his administration would develop a more comprehensive policy to protect the remaining unprotected wilderness areas in the National Forest System. This effort would be conducted on a separate track from the previously announced transportation policy, which would primarily focus on areas within the national forests that are already roaded.

A temporary roadbuilding moratorium approved by the Forest Service went into effect in February. The Wyoming Timber Industry Association promptly challenged the moratorium in Federal District Court. Earthjustice intervened in that case on behalf of the government and conservationists. The second case challenging the Forest Service's efforts to protect roadless areas was brought by the state of Idaho.


In January, Forest Service Chief Michael Dombeck announced that he would be developing a transportation policy for the National Forest System. He also proposed to institute an 18-month road building moratorium on 130 national forests while that policy was developed.