Federal Court Upholds Protections for Roadless Forests

Federal Court Upholds Protections for Roadless Forests

September 20, 2006

For more information, please contact:
Scott Greacen, EPIC, 707-476-8340
Mat Jacobsen, National Environmental Trust, 413-268-2017
Kristen Boyles, EarthJustice 206-343-7340

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Reversing the Bush Administration’s efforts to undo protections for roadless national forests, federal Judge Elizabeth LaPorte today overturned the Administration’s so-called “state petitions” plan to decide the future of 58.5 million acres of National Forest roadless areas. Judge LaPorte ruled that the original 2001 Roadless Rule, which the Forest Service wrote under the Clinton Administration, was illegally abandoned by officials appointed by Bush. The court ordered the Bush rule withdrawn and the 2001 rule reinstated.

Conservationists say it’s a great victory, both for the record number of Americans who have spoken out in favor of roadless protection, and for the states, including California, which have responded to the Bush Administration’s sham process by urging full protections be kept in place.

“The original Roadless Rule was the single most popular proposal that the Forest Service—indeed, that any part of the government – has ever put before the American people,” said Scott Greacen, Public Lands Coordinator with the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “On the other hand, the Bush Administration’s sham proposal, to ask the states, but let the political appointees running the Forest Service decide what to do with our last roadless areas, got a record number of negative comments.”

To date, every state that has petitioned under the Bush rule has requested the protection of their roadless areas be consistent with the 2001 Rule. Even Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger urged full protection for all of California’s remaining national forest roadless areas in a July 15th statement. California’s national forests are home to 4.4 million acres of wild forestlands, pristine areas enormously valuable to Californians for clean water, recreational opportunities, fishing and hunting areas, wildlife habitat and buffers from wildfires.

EPIC’s Greacen said today’s ruling could help to protect key areas in northwestern California’s national forests. “Despite what the American people and the courts have said, the Forest Service is still planning to develop many important roadless areas. This decision will make it much harder for the agency to deny the impact of roadbuilding and logging in these wild areas.” He pointed to the Underwood roadless area on the Six Rivers national forest and areas around the Black Butte River on the Mendocino national forest as examples of areas which may enjoy greater protection thanks to today’s ruling.

EPIC was one of 20 conservation groups and four state attorneys general challenging the Bush Administration’s action in federal court. The opinion, photographs, and other background material are available on request.