Federal Court Reinstates 2001 Roadless Rule
Yesterday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the ban on development on over 40 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands. The original Roadless Area Conservation Rule was issued by the Clinton administration in 2001 and protected 58.5 million acres. Almost immediately, and for eight years, it was attacked and weakened by the Bush administration. In 2005, the rule was reversed and states were allowed to petition to develop their own roadless areas management plans. Upon this reversal the Sierra Club, along with several other environmental groups and Western states, sued the Forest Service.
This decision restores protections to all roadless areas except those in Idaho (which petitioned to develop its own management plans) and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska (which was temporarily exempted from the rule in 2003). The Obama administration has pledged to "support and defend" the 2001 rule and recently issued a one year directive that any road-building project in roadless areas would require Secretarial approval. Now the administration has the opportunity to uphold its pledge and fully restore protections to our nation's treasured wild places, including the Tongass. These untouched areas are iconic and beautiful but, perhaps more importantly, they are free from the stressors of development. Such areas are vital for wildlife and ecosystems as they shift and adapt to a warmer world. This administration has shown that it takes global warming seriously and it should act to mitigate its effects on our public lands.