Wilderness Society, May 10, 2001
On May 10, Idaho Federal District Judge Edward Lodge issued a
preliminary injunction stopping the Forest Service from enforcing the
Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The Wilderness Society and other
environmental intervenors in the case immediately filed an appeal with
the Ninth Circuit
Court of Appeals in San Francisco seeking a reversal of Lodge's
While the injunction remains in effect, the Forest Service could begin
building new roads into roadless areas for timber sales, oil drilling,
and other projects. It is unclear at this time whether the agency
will do so, given the administration's announcement last week that it is
committed to roadless protection.
BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND THE ROADLESS RULE
On May 4, the Bush Administration announced it would allow the roadless
conservation rule to go forward, but that it would propose new
amendments to the rule in June.
The amendments that the administration intends to propose in June would
greatly weaken the roadless area protection in the current rule.
According to the administration's press release, the amendments will be
based on five principles.
**1. "Informed decision-making...through the local forest planning
process." The failure of local forest planning to protect roadless
areas is the main reason for the Roadless Rule. Under current forest
plans, 59% of the inventoried roadless areas are open to road
million acres out of 58.5 million). As Forest Service Chief Bosworth has
stated, "From my perspective, it makes sense that the issue of
whether or not to build roads into roadless areas is a matter of public
policy as opposed to a forest planning question. For us to try to grind
through forest plans once again with the roadless issue overshadowing
everything else doesn't make sense" (The battle over roads;
Missoulian; June 18, 2000; Sherry Devlin).
**2. Working together with states and local communities. With more
than 1.6 million comments, the current Roadless Rule was developed with
the most public participation in the history of federal rulemaking. More
than 1,000 comments came from people in each of the 50 states. Local
decision-making consistently undervalues the national interest in
roadless areas. The administration's proposal would allow the clear
wishes of the American public for roadless area conservation to be
overridden by a relative handful of development-oriented local residents
**3. Protecting roadless forests from fire and insects. This
appears to be a veiled threat to conduct extensive salvage logging in
the roadless areas. There is no scientific justification to salvage log
roadless areas, which typically are the healthiest parts of the forest.
**4. Protecting communities and property from fire. The Roadless Rule
and EIS process have already dealt extensively with this issue and
arrived at a reasonable compromise that balances the potential benefits
While thinning overly dense stands of small trees may reduce fire risk,
building access roads into roadless areas will increase fire risk. The
Forest Service does not intend even to begin fuel reduction work in
roadless areas for at least another decade, since they are located far
from homes and communities.
**5. Protecting access to property. Access to state and private
land inholdings is a non-issue, but opponents of the Roadless Rule have
somehow failed to realize or admit it. The Forest Service has made it
very clear that the Roadless Rule has no effect on access. Roadless
areas are no
different from any other national forest lands regarding inholder