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Court Ruling the Final Destination for Roadless Rule Journey?

August 6, 2009

HELENA, Mont. - The national forest roadless rule may have reached the end of its journey. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the original rule is back in place - tossing out the Bush administration decision to repeal the rule's protections for about 60 million acres nationwide. More than 6 million acres of national forests in Montana are part of that tally.

Jane Danowitz, public lands program director with Pew Environment Group, says backers of the original rule are now looking for an official declaration from the White House, and some say Congressional action is needed to stop the lawsuit cycle.

"The ruling is really a game-changer in what has been at least a decade-old fight to save the nation's last undeveloped forests."

The Obama administration called a "time out" in June on development activity in roadless areas, pending court decisions and further review of the issue. Opponents of the rule still say it unfairly limits forest activities, and there is some question about whether the court's ruling has implications for states outside the Ninth Circuit.

The rule has generated almost a decade of controversy, with some logging, mining and motorized recreation interests crying "foul" over development restrictions. Danowitz says the rule has had strong public support from the beginning because it preserves public land for hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and other recreation.

"Where there hasn't been controversy, and where there has been agreement, is that these national forests need protection."

The Ninth Circuit covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Idaho is not affected by the appeals court decision because a state rule already is in place.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT