Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tenth Circuit Upholds "Roadless Rule" National Forest Protections

Feb 16: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition filed by the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association to reconsider the court's October 2011 ruling upholding the national Roadless Rule [See WIMS 10/24/11]. According to a release from Earthjustice, the October ruling secured critical legal protections for nearly 50 million acres of pristine National Forest lands. The latest decision means that the October decision upholding the Roadless Rule against legal challenges will stand as the final decision of the 10th Circuit.
    Earthjustice indicated that a large number of its attorneys have worked since 2001 to defend the protections embodied in the Roadless Rule. Bozeman Montana attorney Tim Preso, one of the attorneys issued a statement on the 10th Circuit decision saying, "Today's decision is a victory for all those who love to hike, fish, or hunt in our national forests. Protection of these forests also secures vital habitat for some of our nation's most sensitive wildlife. From condors of the southern California mountains, to grizzly bears and wolves near Yellowstone National Park, to migratory songbirds among the Appalachian hardwoods, many species would no longer exist -- or would be severely depleted -- but for the forest lands protected by the Roadless Rule. Today's victory marks yet another milestone in Earthjustice's ongoing legal effort to protect roadless public forest lands amounting to roughly a third of our national forests, and nearly 2 percent of the U.S. land base."

    Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski also worked on roadless protection in Colorado and said, "Today's decision is a win for Colorado's four million acres of streams, wildlife and mountains found in roadless areas. Sadly, the Forest Service continues to work on a weaker state rule for Colorado, one with loopholes allowing natural areas to be bulldozed for the benefit of the oil and gas industry and coal mines. The State of Colorado asked for a separate state rule a decade ago as an 'insurance policy' in case the national rule was set aside. With the Tenth Circuit's decision, that insurance policy is not needed. The Forest Service should abandon its effort to roll back the Roadless Rule's protections for Colorado forests. Colorado's forests, wildlife and clear streams deserve the same high level of protection as forests in neighboring Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico."

    In October 2011, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO issued a lengthy 120-page opinion that reversed the district court's order granting Plaintiff's declaratory relief and issuing a permanent injunction, and remanded the case for the district court to vacate the permanent injunction. The State of Wyoming and the mining industry had sought to overturn the Roadless Rule. Subsequently, in December 2011 the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association challenged the Roadless Rule again and asked for a full, en banc appeals court rehearing. That petition was denied in the latest court action. In a brief order, the Appeals Court said, "The petition for rehearing en banc was transmitted to all of the judges of the court who are in regular active service. As no member of the panel and no judge in regular active service on the court requested that the court be polled, that petition is also denied."

    Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Environment Group's U.S. public lands program, issued a statement regarding Appeals Court ruling saying, "Today's court decision gives President Obama a green light to implement one of the nation's most important conservation polices. With the last legal barrier cleared, the administration should move quickly to enforce the roadless rule as the law of the land. The importance of a national policy to preserve what remains of America's pristine forests cannot be overstated. Without the roadless rule, protection of these areas would be left to the patchwork management system that has resulted in millions of acres lost to industrial development. This decision is good news for all Americans who care about our national forests."

    Access a release from Earthjustice and link to the Appeals Court order (click here). Access a release from the Pew Environment Group (click here). [#Land]