"The roadless rule is probably the best conservation measure of this generation," said Earthjustice attorney Jim Angell. "We believe the court of appeals will agree with us and reverse the lower court."
Meanwhile the Bush administration published a new temporary rule to remove the Tongass National Forest from the protections of the roadless rule and immediately resume road building in this unique Alaska rainforest. Over nine million acres of the Tongass could be reopened to bulldozers and chainsaws as a result of this action.
The administration's action comes as Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska tacked several Tongass related amendments to the 2004 Interior Appropriations bill working its way through Congress. One of the amendments makes it harder for citizens living in and around the Tongass to challenge ill-considered timber sales. The other amendment allows logging companies to get out of timber sales contracts when world timber prices make them unattractive. Both of the amendments will cost the US taxpayer while primarily benefiting corporate timber companies.
All of these efforts to reopen the last pieces of America's national forests to development come in the face of popular opposition from the public, which has spoken out repeatedly in favor of preserving these unroaded forests. The roadless rule was the focus of over two million comments from citizens, mostly asking their government to keep the unroaded parts of the national forests undeveloped. Bush administration officials have made public statements saying they won't be swayed by the views of citizens.
"The Tongass has the biggest expanse of temperate rainforest left in the world," said Earthjustice Juneau attorney Tom Waldo. "It's worth a lot more to the American people standing than it is lying in a pile of logs."