Federal judge limits 2006 ruling banning road construction in national forests

[JURIST] A federal judge on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that her 2006 decision [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] invalidating a 2005 Bush administration rule [text] that would allow road construction and mining in national forests applies only to 10 western states. The original Roadless Area Conservation Rule [Forest Service backgrounder], implemented by former US President Bill Clinton in 2001, was replaced [JURIST report] by the Bush administration with a rule allowing governors to request that regulations on the management of roadless areas be developed to meet the needs of individual states. Under the 2006 ruling by Judge Elizabeth Laporte of the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website], the reinstated Clinton-era rule would have prohibited mining, logging, and road construction in the forests of 38 states and Puerto Rico, totaling more than 58 million acres of land. In August another federal judge ruled [opinion, PDF] that the Clinton-era rule was invalid. The Bush administration asked that the two conflicting decisions be reconciled, so Laporte amended her 2006 decision to apply to only 10 western states. The Wilderness Society [advocacy website], a plaintiff in the original case, has called on [press release] the Bush administration "to refrain from using a decision by a federal judge [Tuesday] as an excuse to knock down protection for an estimated 13.6 million acres of roadless national forests in 29 states." Cases are currently pending in federal courts in San Francisco and Denver, and the incoming Obama administration could also make changes to the rule.

In her 2006 decision, Laporte found in favor of 20 environmental groups and California, Washington, New Mexico, and Oregon, which sued [JURIST report] the US Forest Service [official website]. Attorneys for Earthjustice [advocacy group] representing the environmental groups in the case praised the decision [press release], but members of the timber industry and other opponents criticized the ruling, saying states should be able to manage their own forests by using citizen opinion polls.



 

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