Challenge to Roadless Rule Denied
October 27, 2012
On October 1, the Supreme Court announced it will not take up a case brought by the state of Wyoming challenging the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Roadless Rule last year, securing protections for nearly 50 million acres of pristine national forest lands. Wyoming lost its challenge to the rule before the Denver-based Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2011.
The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule was the product of the most comprehensive rulemaking process in the nation’s history, including more than 1 million comments from members of the public and hundreds of public hearings.
This is a key victory for the nation’s undeveloped forests; they remain some of the most environmentally important public lands in our country. They produce clean water and clean air, offer a last refuge to imperiled wildlife across a warming, changing landscape, and provide world-class recreation opportunities for campers, hunters, hikers, fishermen, and bird watchers. They have also become major economic drivers, supporting the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy.
March 1, 2012
Following the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Wyoming District Court has issued a decision securing critical legal protections for nearly 50 million acres of National Forest lands. Sierra Club's key legal partner Earthjustice has led the defense of the Roadless Rule since the Bush-Cheney administration first initiated attacks against it. Against hostile opponents, this critical legal work has kept the Roadless Rule alive and prevented destruction of our National Forests’ last great wild places.
October 21, 2011
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a long-awaited, landmark decision, securing critical legal protections for nearly 50 million acres of pristine National Forest lands. These forests offer outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing, and hiking, produce clean water for thousands of communities nationwide, and provide irreplaceable habitat for imperiled wildlife species including grizzly bears, lynx, and Pacific salmon. The appellate court reversed a lower court decision and affirmed the validity of the Roadless Rule – a 2001 federal rule that protects wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging, and development.
The appellate court ruled against the State of Wyoming and industry intervenors and in favor of conservation groups, the Forest Service, and the States of California, Oregon, and Washington. This decision formally ends an injunction against the Rule’s enforcement imposed by a Wyoming federal district court in 2008.
“The public forests we’ve fought so hard to protect are now safe,” said Tim Preso, an Earthjustice attorney representing the conservation groups. “All Americans can now know that a key part of our nation’s natural heritage won’t be destroyed.”
The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule was the product of the most comprehensive rulemaking process in the nation’s history, including more than 2 million comments from members of the public, hundreds of public hearings and open houses, and a detailed environmental review. The rule came under relentless attack by logging and resource extraction interests, certain states, and the Bush administration.
“Roadless areas are valuable and irreplaceable places for hikers, campers, hunters, anglers, and families; they protect our water supplies; they provide room for wildlife to live and raise their young; and they will be increasingly important as safe havens for plants and animals in the face of rising temperatures and other impacts of climate change,” said Frances Hunt, Director of the Sierra Club's Resilient Habitats Campaign.
Earthjustice has led the legal defense of the Roadless Rule since the first attacks under the Bush/Cheney administration. Against all odds, this critical legal work has kept the Roadless Rule alive and prevented destruction of our national forests’ last great wild places.
Now, conservation, faith, and recreation groups trust that the Obama administration will support and enforce the 2001 Roadless Rule as the law of the land, including defending its protections for all 58.5 million acres of roadless lands in the country. That includes national forests in Alaska, currently subject to a separate legal challenge and national forests in Idaho, whose roadless area protections were weakened in 2008.
Background on the decision:
In 2008, the State of Wyoming sued the Forest Service for a second time to invalidate the Roadless Rule (the rule had been reinstated by a federal court in California in 2006). A Wyoming federal district court enjoined the Rule; Earthjustice and the Forest Service appealed that injunction to the 10th Circuit. The 10th Circuit now joins the 9th Circuit in finding the Roadless Rule legal.
In this appeal to the 10th Circuit, Earthjustice represented Wyoming Outdoor Council, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Pacific Rivers Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society, and Defenders of Wildlife. The States of California, Oregon, and Washington submitted legal papers in support of the Roadless Rule and the conservation groups’ appeal.
Two other legal actions to protect roadless areas remain pending: (1) a lawsuit challenging application of the Roadless Rule to national forests in Alaska, and (2) a lawsuit challenging a separate, less protective rule that applies only to federal roadless areas in Idaho.
Details and Documents:
Order Vacating Permanent Injunction
March 1, 2012, In the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming
Federal Court Reinstates Roadless Rule
October 21, 2011, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Court Opinion on Roadless Rule
October 21, 2011, In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
High court rejects challenge to roadless rule
October 1, 2012, Associated Press
Appeals court upholds Clinton roadless rule
October 21, 2011 by Phil Taylor, Greenwire
Roadless rule decision could spark legislative attack as legal battles remain
October 21, 2011 by Phil Taylor & Lawrence Hurley, E&E News
See other "Promoting Resilient Habitats" cases.