Late in the Bush administration, the U.S. Forest Service issued the Idaho Roadless Rule, a regulation establishing special rules to govern management of undeveloped roadless areas in Idaho’s National Forests. Idaho has the most roadless public forest lands of any state in the lower-48 United States, with more than nine million acres. These pristine lands belong to all Americans. They provide outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing and hiking, as well as essential habitat for rare wildlife species such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, caribou, and wolverines.
However, while the 2001 Roadless Rule protected these lands, the Bush administration’s Idaho Roadless Rule creates new loopholes that open the door for road construction and logging across 5.3 million acres of roadless areas—an area more than twice the size of Yellowstone National Park—and leaves more than 400,000 acres of roadless areas entirely unprotected.
Representing a coalition of national and regional conservation groups, Earthjustice challenged the Idaho Roadless Rule in federal district court in January 2009. This lawsuit takes aim at the rule’s impacts on endangered and threatened species and its authorization for new development activities in previously protected roadless areas. Earthjustice asked the court to invalidate the Idaho Roadless Rule and restore the 2001 Roadless Rule’s protections for Idaho’s irreplaceable wild forests.
In January of 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion adopting the District Court’s ruling in the case. The decision opens popular recreation areas in Idaho 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 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.