Court won't reconsider decision on roadless rule for forest

White House drafting regs to replace Clinton's

Posted: Tuesday, April 08, 2003

BOISE, Idaho - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals won't reconsider its December decision upholding the Clinton administration's roadless rule that banned logging and road construction on a third of federal forests.

The San Francisco-based court refused Idaho's petition to submit the ruling of a three-judge panel to the full court. The denial was issued last Friday without comment.

Bob Cooper, spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said he would discuss the case with the state Land Board before a decision is made to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since the decision, the Bush administration has begun drafting new regulations to replace the Clinton rule that was stopped by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge when the state of Idaho, the Kootenai Indian tribe and others sued.

The administrative rule banned road building or other development in federal roadless parcels of 5,000 acres or more. The Idaho judge said it was hurried through the administrative process without informed debate. When the Bush administration declined to appeal, environmental groups did and won last December's order lifting Lodge's injunction.

The roadless rule covered 58.5 million acres of federal land, including 14 million acres in the Tongass and Chugach national forests. The state of Alaska filed a separate lawsuit challenging the rule's application in Alaska through the "no more" clause of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. ANILCA says federal land in Alaska shouldn't be studied for new conservation areas without permission from Congress.

Southeast Alaska environmental groups supported including the Tongass and Chugach in the roadless rule during hearings in 2000.

The original three-judge appellate panel split on Lodge's decision. The two-judge majority held that the logging industry and snowmobile groups were not irreparably harmed by the rules.

"Unlike the resource destruction that attends development, and that is bound to have permanent repercussions, restrictions on forest development and human intervention can be removed if later proved to be more harmful than helpful," the majority ruled.

But dissenter Andrew Kleinfeld said the roadless rule increased fire danger by making remote areas less accessible and therefore changed the status quo.

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