Another ruling on 'roadless rule'

Another ruling on 'roadless rule'

On Tuesday, August 12, 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Brimmer ruled that the Forest Service enacted the Clinton Roadless Rule in direct violation of the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Policy Act marking the third major court ruling in the continuing saga of the the “roadless rule.” Brimmer's decision minces few words, concluding the 2001 Rule "was driven by political haste and evidenced pro forma compliance with" environmental laws, using descriptors such as "flagrant" and "cavalier" in characterizing the "unequivocal" violations.

“This on-going saga underscores how ‘legislation from the bench’ is undermining the economic power of the the country,” stated John Stewart, Natural Resources Consultant for California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. “In addition, this subversion of the administrative process has a significant adverse impact on recreation opportunity. Thankfully, in an era of climate change, global warming, rampant spread of fire, and beetle-infestations, at least one judge understands that limiting management options is not a prudent move.” In 2001, the Clinton administration issued the Roadless Rule which designated about 60 million acres of the National Forest System as "de facto" wilderness.  The State of Wyoming filed suit challenging the egality of the “roadless rule”.  In July 2003, Judge Brimmer rejected the Roadless Rule.  That 2001 case was rendered moot when the Forest Service subsequently issued revised rules for “roadless rule” known as the Bush State Petitions Rule in May 2005.

Environmental groups, along with the attorney generals of California, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico, subsequently filed a lawsuit requesting that the Bush State Petitions Rule be ruled null and void. In 2006, Judge Laporte, Magistrate for the U.S. District Court for Northern California, found the Bush State Petitions Rule invalid and reinstated the Clinton Roadless Rule ruling that the administration had illegally repealed the roadless rule.

The Roadless Rule has been the subject of repeated lawsuits from both opponents and supporters.

Judge Laporte set aside 2005 State Petitions Rule and reinstated the Roadless Rule nationwide, except in Alaska's Tongass National Forest.

On November 29, 2006, Judge Laporte issued an injunction halting all activities inconsistent with the Roadless Rule. In her injunction, Judge Laporte stated that because the 2001 rule had been repealed illegally, all projects in roadless areas inconsistent with that rule were also illegal and must be halted. The State of Wyoming then filed a new complaint with the U.S. District Court in Wyoming requesting the original lawsuit challenging the legality of the Clinton Roadless Rule be reinstated.  On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Brimmer ruled that the Forest Service enacted the Clinton Roadless Rule in direct violation of the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The August 12 decision by Judge Brimmer's voiding the Clinton Roadless Rule applies to states within the 10th Circuit Court.  Judge Laporte's decision upholding the Clinton Roadless Rule and overturning the Bush Roadless Rule applies to states within the 9th Circuit Court.   The situation involves two conflicting court decisions in different federal courts issuing decisions with nationwide impact.

If the ruling is upheld on appeal, it is expected the case will move to the Supreme Court to resolve the conflicting ruling between two federal courts.  While not directly related, this case could impact two additional law suits involving the southern California National Forests and management of “roadless areas.”

California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs (CA4WDC) and the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) were involved in the original 2007 lawsuit in Wyoming and the 2006 law suit in California, including all appeals of each.


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