Hanging in the balance is the fate of 58.5 million acres of national forest and grasslands; some of the last truly wild places owned in common by all Americans.
The legal challenge to the roadless rule was originally brought by the State of Idaho and Boise Cascade timber corporation. Earthjustice's Honnold told the court the injunction was improper because Boise Cascade and the other plaintiffs couldn't prove they were harmed in any way by the roadless rule; a condition needed to justify a preliminary injunction.
The State of Idaho has cited fire danger to its state lands adjacent to national forest roadless areas but co-counsel Pat Parenteau, representing Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, pointed out to the court that areas of the national forests that have roads suffer five times as many fires as non-roaded areas.
The Boise Cascade attorney told the court the federal government had "abandoned" the roadless rule, a fact noted by all three judges.
The roadless rule came about as a result of a lengthy public process undertaken by the Clinton administration to save the last big parts of the national forest and grasslands not yet developed.
Saving these roadless areas means giving many federally protected rare species a fighting change to survive in the wild. Perhaps chief among them is the grizzly bear that enjoys four-million acres of roadless national forests surrounding one of their last strongholds, Yellowstone National Park.
Former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck has noted the importance of roadless areas in providing fresh, clean drinking water to Americans across the country. Dombeck also pointed out that with 386,000 miles of roads crisscrossing America's national forests, and a backlog of billions of dollars of repairs needed, it makes little sense to undertake more road building.