SEATTLE - Environmentalists on Monday asked a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel to lift an injunction against a rule that would have restricted logging and road building on a third of national forest lands.
On the other side, lawyers for the state of Idaho, the Kootenai tribe, snowmachiners and livestock companies argued for the injunction, saying the restrictions would make forests vulnerable to disease, bugs and wildfire, and limit use by the tribe.
A ruling could take weeks or months, lawyers for both sides said.
The roadless rule, enacted by President Clinton in his final two weeks in office, was blocked in May by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Boise, Idaho.
Lodge issued a preliminary injunction in response to Idaho's lawsuit challenging the policy. He called the rule a "Band-Aid approach" that would do irreparable harm.
The Bush administration, which said there had not been enough public comment on the issue, declined to appeal Lodge's decision. Nobody from the Department of Justice participated Monday.
The vast majority of roadless federal forests are in the West, including Alaska's Tongass and Chugach national forests. Clinton's order would have stopped all new road construction in the Chugach and all road construction in the Tongass, except for developments involving timber sales that already were proposed.
Members of the three-judge panel expressed concerns that the environmental groups did not have the power to appeal because the government had chosen not to, and the attorneys were grilled to find cases that could support their stance.
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