Federal court enjoins enforcement of wilderness protection rule

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Wyoming [official website] on Tuesday granted the state an injunction [decision, PDF] prohibiting the National Forest Service (NFS) [NFS materials] from enforcing a 2001 rule [PDF text] prohibiting the construction of roads and other developments in designated wilderness areas. Writing for the court, Judge Clarence Brimmer said that the rule violated both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act [texts]. The state had brought a complaint against the agency in 2003, but the lawsuit was eventually dismissed [opinion] after the rule was superseded by an order from President George Bush in 2005. A judge in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California reinstated the 2001 rule [decision, PDF] in 2006, but Brimmer found that decision to be erroneous. The California ruling is pending appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and wilderness advocates have said they plan to appeal the Wyoming decision to the Tenth Circuit. AP has more.

In July, an en-banc panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] released a ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] granting broad deference to the NFS when making decisions regarding the impact of logging on national forests. In late June, the same panel ruled [PDF text, AP report] that the NFS generally has the prerogative to determine which trees are candidates for clearing after after a forest fire, but directed the agency to more thoroughly consider whether any logging should be done in certain wilderness areas. In May, the court reversed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] a lower court order denying an injunction against a NFS plan to allow commercial logging in another forest to help pay for a wildfire prevention program.



 

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