Bush Administration Fails to Defend National Forest Roadless Areas

Deadline to appeal Wyoming court decision on roadless areas passes


Jim Angell, Earthjustice, 303-996-9621

The Bush administration turned its back on America’s finest wild lands by failing last week to appeal a Wyoming judge’s ruling invalidating the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Commonly called the Roadless Rule, the measure is widely regarded as the greatest conservation measure in generations. The Roadless Rule protects almost 60 million acres of America’s national forests and grasslands from most roadbuilding and development. The rule has come under incessant attack from development interests since the Bush administration took office.

The Wyoming judge sided with the state of Wyoming in this challenge to the Roadless Rule. Although the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the rule in December 2002, Wyoming’s lawsuit went forward because Wyoming is in the Tenth Circuit. Earthjustice intervened in the lawsuit to uphold the rule.

Earthjustice attorney Jim Angell said, “When you talk about protecting the last undeveloped areas of our national forest and leaving them for future generation, as past generations left them for us, you are being responsible and accountable. The Bush administration just passed on their chance to be accountable to future generations of Americans.”

The Roadless Rule protects the last unroaded areas of America’s national forests, which serve as safe harbors for native wildlife species as well as provide key clean drinking water for many American cities. The roadless areas also provide unparalleled recreation opportunities for hikers, hunters, fishermen and others. With over 380,000 miles of existing roads crisscrossing America’s national forests and grasslands, the rule was adopted by those who understood that remaining unroaded areas deserved protection from development.

The Roadless Rule is also the most popular conservation measure of this generation. Over 2 million Americans have submitted comments on it with well over 90 percent in favor of the rule.

The Wyoming court challenge to the rule comes against a backdrop of the Bush administration aggressively moving to open unroaded federal Bureau of Land Management land to development as well as give away lands in national parks and monuments to special interests intent on bulldozing new roads. The Bush administration recently announced efforts to weaken the Roadless Rule by allowing governors to opt out of the protections on a state-by-state basis. The administration has also moved to exclude the nation’s two largest national forests, the Tongass and Chugach in Alaska from the protections of the Roadless Rule.

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