When we last visited this story, the original Roadless Rule, issued at the tail end of the Clinton administration, seemed to be in effect in some parts of the country, not in others, and the court ruling that reimposed it was still under legal challenge by the Forest Service.
The situation was clarified to a great degree today, with a unanimous ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a lower court ruling, which had found a substitute rule put forward by the Bush administration illegal and reinstated the original rule throughout the country except for Alaska and Idaho.
This is tremendous news, and should be a powerful encouragement to the new administration to do whatever is necessary to protect roadless areas throughout the land.
There are still several important bits of housekeeping to take care of.
For one thing, the sneaky-Pete ploy by the state of Alaska and the Bush people to exempt the Tongass National Forest in Alaska still needs to be undone or overridden. Second, a statewide rule governing national forest management in Idaho, under legal challenge by Earthjustice and a bevy of organizations, must be dealt with. A similar rule has just been adopted concerning the state of Colorado, and that must be dealt with as well.
And then there’s our old friend Judge Clarence Brimmer of Wyoming, who has declared the original rule illegal throughout the country and who has less than no use for what the Ninth Circuit says or thinks. An appeal of Judge Brimmer’s latest injunction against the rule is pending at the Tenth Circuit in Denver.
Still, this is big news, and we hope it is not lost on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who got off to a bad start by approving a timber sale in a roadless area in Alaska about three weeks ago, a bad decision that should not be repeated.