The 9th Circuit just upheld the Clinton Roadless Rule, and slapped down Bush’s amended rule which granted states and local interests undue influence to craft their own roadless rules, rules which ended up being weaker than the Clinton Rule. Idaho and Colorado were the only states to ride Bush’s timber-train.
Clinton-era Rule Protecting Forests Upheld Green Inc., New York Times
The “roadless rule,” approved in 2001 during the waning days of the Clinton administration, substantially limited road development in national forest lands. The Bush Administration effectively replaced it with another policy that allowed states to establish their own rules on roads in forests.
A Bit of the Backstory
The Clinton Roadless Rule governed federal lands in the common interest of a majority of Americans – 95 percent of all Americans support full protection for these national forest roadless wildlands. Timber Tycoon Mark Rey, Bush’s undersecretary for natural resources and agriculturem, didn’t like this arrangement, so when Bush took office he set about suggesting a process of “local” origination for new rules to replace the Clinton Rule pursuant to an industry friendly provision of the Administrative Procedure Act – a new process that, if they could garner the support of industry, local politicians and a few conservation groups, would allow the new proposals originating in the state’s themselves to look legitimate ~ to replace the overwhelmingly popular Clinton Rule.
Most states declined – they like the Clinton Rule, but proponents of Rey’s “locally”-handled collaborative in Idaho, a state that champions the most roadless area in the lower 48, had succeeded in shaving away the the robust potential wilderness aspiration for 5.3 million acres of public lands off of the original 2001 Clinton Roadless Rule and loosening restrictions on road-construction to under the auspice of preventing Fire. In Idaho, where Fire is big industry, the collaborative ensured a new, diluted roadless standard because fire is “bad” and local politicians hold steadfast to the agressive idea that we need to manicure our forests. An additional 400,000 federal acres located in Idaho was cut off of Clinton’s protective rule to allow increased logging and mining. A few local conservation collaborators claimed it was necessary to be involved lest the new rules turn out even worse for the Clinton Rule than would otherwise take place with their involvement. Others, notably The Wilderness Society and Sierra Club, held steadfast to the original Clinton Roadless Rule.
Recently, the Obama Administration ~ Vilsack ~ has expressed the willingness to make good on Obama’s campaign promise to manage these federal public lands with a majority of Americans’ interest in mind – by setting a 1-year moratorium on roads for all the lands subject to Clinton’s 2001 rule and by instituting top-level oversight of decisions to blade new roads – but Idaho is was being excluded from this protection. Obama did not want to step on the collaborative agreement – on the new Risch Rule. The 9th Circuit just stepped on it for him. The acres once compromised now enjoy restored protection, for the time-being. The Rule has been held in litigation in two circuits (first two districts – with contradictory results), environmentalists lost in Wyoming District Court and are now appealing to the 10th Circuit which has not yet decided the issue.