Conservationists will argue in federal district court in Boise on Friday that the national forest roadless rule adopted for the State of Idaho opens popular recreation areas to new threats from roadbuilding and logging, puts critical fish and wildlife habitat at risk and threatens key watersheds with industrial mining pollution.
Idaho’s Roadless Rule, adopted under the Bush Administration to replace the comprehensive protections of the 2001 Roadless Rule for national forest lands in Idaho, removes virtually all regulatory protection from more than 400,000 acres of roadless land and reduces protection for an additional 5.3 million roadless acres. At stake are important public wildlands ranging from the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho to the fringes of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem on the Idaho-Wyoming border, as well as habitat for species like woodland caribou, grizzly bear, and Yellowstone and Bonneville cutthroat trout.
“Right now, Idaho, with more roadless national forest land than any other state in the lower 48, is the only state in the lower 48 without full protection of all roadless areas,” said Craig Gehrke, Idaho Regional Director of The Wilderness Society. “Idaho does not deserve to have second-class protection for its wildlands.”
“The Idaho Rule rolls back protection for spectacular public lands that belong to all Americans,” added Tim Preso of Earthjustice. “These lands are home to some of the most imperiled wildlife in the nation. They should be protected for everyone who cares about our nation’s natural heritage.”
“The removal of protections from roadless lands coveted by the phosphate mining industry in the Idaho area of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is the most harmful action permitted by the Idaho Rule,” said Marv Hoyt, Idaho Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “The impacts from phosphate mining have already led to the poisoning of more than 175 miles of streams and resulted in 17 Superfund sites in Idaho and the Idaho Rule opens more pristine land to this polluting activity.”
“At several public meetings for the Idaho Rule, citizens stated that roadbuilding in roadless grizzly and caribou habitat would be harmful to these endangered animals, ” said Mike Petersen, Executive Director of The Lands Council. “We were ignored. The Idaho Roadless Rule was not a collaborative product. It is a backroom deal that is bad for wildlife.”
Proponents of the Idaho Rule claim that it is more protective than the 2001 Rule for 3 million acres. However, the Forest Service expected no development activities in those specific areas under the 2001 Rule, and over half of those acres had already been protected from development by individual forest management plans. The Idaho Rule allocated the majority of Idaho’s roadless lands to management prescriptions that are less protective than the 2001 Rule.
Idaho’s Roadless Rule is being challenged by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, The Lands Council, The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and long-time Idaho conservationist Gerald Jayne. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Earthjustice.
Friday’s court hearing will take place at 3 pm in the James A. McClure Federal Building and United States Courthouse, located at 550 W. Fort Street in Boise.