Roadless Forests Win in Court

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Christopher Lancette, TWS communications director, (202) 429-2692; chris_lancette@tws.org

Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340 x 33

Roadless Forests Win in Court

Decision reinstates most of national rule opposed by Bush, timber lobbyists

WASHINGTON - The Wilderness Society and 19 other
environmental organizations notched
a huge victory today
when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed
protection for almost 40 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands
from new road building, logging, and development. The decision puts an end to
the Bush administration's efforts to open these last great natural areas
to development. Today's ruling protects the majority of national forest
roadless areas in the country.

"Americans
love the wild forests and rivers our country has been blessed with," said
Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice -- the nonprofit environmental law
firm representing the plaintiffs in this case. "From campers, hunters,
hikers, fishermen, and bird watchers to cities and towns that rely on clean,
mountain-fed drinking water, we all stand and cheer that the court today
protected our national roadless areas."

Michael
Francis, The Wilderness Society's national forest program director in Washington D.C.,
said that "the court's decision reinstates the most popular
environmental rule of all time. It marks a virtual end to the Bush
administration's attacks on the 2001 roadless rule. It also frees
this administration to pursue President Obama's pledge to ‘support
and defend' the 2001 rule. We trust the president will welcome the
ruling as much as we do."

The appellate court
explained
that the Bush rule it struck down, "had the effect of
permanently repealing uniform, nationwide, substantive protections that were
afforded to inventoried roadless areas, and replacing them with a [variable]
regime of the type the agency had rejected as inadequate a few years
earlier." The court repeated its earlier finding that "there
can be no doubt that the 58.5 million acres subject to the Roadless Rule, if
implemented, would have greater protection if the Roadless Rule stands."
The 2001 rule has, the court emphasized, "immeasurable benefits from a
conservationist standpoint."

In 2009,
127 eminent scientists, four governors, 121 members of Congress, 25 Senators,
and 119 outdoor recreation businesses sent letters appealing to President Obama
and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to protect and defend roadless areas.

"We're
not out of the woods yet," said Mike Anderson, a senior resource analyst
with The Wilderness Society in Seattle,
Washington. "This decision
halts the Bush administration assault on roadless areas, but the Obama
administration must now take the next steps necessary to make protection
permanent and nationwide."

Specifically,
the next step for Obama would be to instruct the Department of Justice to
appeal a suit sitting in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where
another Bush hold-over effort seeks to nullify the entire 2001 roadless rule.

With
the roadless rule now back in effect in all areas except for Idaho
and the Tongass National
Forest in Alaska, The
Wilderness Society asserts that a proposed state-specific rule pending in Colorado is not needed.

"Coloradans
overwhelmingly supported the 2001 national rule and welcome its reinstatement
 with open arms," said Suzanne Jones, the Colorado regional director for The
Wilderness Society.  "While one final court challenge to the 2001
rule remains, there is no need for a state-specific rule like the watered-down Colorado proposal that
has just been released for public comment."

The
fate of the roadless rule has been caught up in the federal courts and the politics
of changing presidents for almost a decade. Originally adopted by the Clinton administration
after an environmental review that included 600 public hearings and over 1.6
million public comments, the Bush administration actively colluded to get rid
of it. Despite these efforts, and due to deep public support for roadless area
protection, only seven miles of roads were built and 535 acres of trees logged
in roadless areas since 2001.

In the challenge to the repeal of the roadless rule,
Earthjustice represented The Wilderness Society, California Wilderness
Coalition, Forests Forever Foundation, Northcoast Environmental Center, Oregon
Wild, Sitka Conservation Society, Siskiyou Project, Biodiversity Conservation
Alliance, Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Greater Yellowstone Coalition,
Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center,
Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Defenders of Wildlife, Pacific Rivers
Council, Idaho Conservation League, Humane Society of the United States,
Conservation NW, and Greenpeace, and joined with the states of California,
Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington.

###

Since 1935, The Wilderness Society has led the conservation movement in wilderness protection, writing and passing the landmark Wilderness Act and winning lasting protection for 107 million acres of Wilderness, including 56 million acres of spectacular lands in Alaska, eight million acres of fragile desert lands in California and millions more throughout the nation.

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