The following editorial first ran March 24:
An appeal of the Roadless Rule ruling is in Alaska’s future — or it should be.
A federal judge rejected an Alaska challenge to the Clinton administration-era Roadless Rule in national forests this week.
The judge said: Too late.
The attorney opposing Alaska’s stand said: Let’s move on.
Alaska, according to the timber industry, should say: Not so fast.
Alaska didn’t get the chance to make its argument before Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court because his honor viewed the case as not within the statute of limitations. The state had six years to challenge the ruling.
But, during much of that time, Alaska was exempt from the rule. That means Alaskans had no need to challenge the rule because it didn’t apply to Alaska. Herein lies what an appellate court might view differently than Judge Leon.
President Clinton implemented the Roadless Rule at the end of his second administration. Alaska filed to be exempt, and the U.S. Forest Service, in a settlement, agreed to an exemption.
The rule prevents new logging roads and timber harvest in roadless areas of national forests, such as the Tongass National Forest.
Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo, who represented the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and others interested in enforcing the Roadless Rule in Alaska, says it’s time to move on now that Judge Leon has rejected the case.
Right; is that what he’d say if the judge hadn’t rejected the case and went on to agree with Alaska in regard to the Roadless Rule?
Hardly, he and his organizations would debate the issue in court forever and a day, as they have shown over many years of litigation.
Alaska should challenge the statute of limitations and how it is being defined. It doesn’t sound just, and a judge should see that. Maybe the next one will.