Forest protection advocates are cheering a ruling last week by Federal Judge Elizabeth Laporte to throw out the Bush administration’s roadless area development rule of 2005.
President Bill Clinton enacted the Roadless Area Conservation Rule that ended resource extraction on 58.5 million acres of federal land in 39 states not already accessed by roads. But President George W. Bush replaced the federal Roadless Rule with a state petition process that gave governors the final say on opening up virgin national forest land to logging and mining. The new ruling ensures federal protection once again.
For environmentalists, Judge Laporte’s decision came just in time, as several Republican governors have been pushing to open roadless areas in their states to resource extraction. "The American people have spoken loud and clear on this issue and they want these valuable public lands protected," says Anna Aurilio of the non-profit U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "Today’s federal court ruling offers hope that these priceless forests will not be squandered."
Legal analysts expect the Bush administration to appeal the decision, and suspect the issue may ultimately end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. "What seems clear is that this is going to remain in the courts, likely through the end of the Bush administration," says Mark Squillace, director of the University of Colorado’s Natural Resources Law Center.