Good News! Federal Court Reinstates Roadless Rule

| Wed Sep. 20, 2006 5:52 PM EDT

Via, Earthjustice: A federal district court today ordered reinstatement of the Clinton era roadless rule to protect almost 50 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from road building, logging, and development.

The Bush administration's has long fought to open these natural areas to development. We wrote about the roadless rule in this 2003 piece, in which an environmentalist said, "The roadless rule is one of the most popular federal policies in the history of the United States. We're talking about the last remaining 58.5 million acres of roadless forest, and one of the first things President Bush did in office was to tell the forest service to halt implementation."

Today's ruling does not address the roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, which the Bush administration in 2003 exempted from the roadless rule in a separate procedure. The 17-million-acre Tongass is the largest federal forest and the biggest roadless area in the US. It's also the heart of the planet's largest and oldest temperate rainforest. Here's how Ted Williams described the forest a few years ago in a piece for Mother Jones.

"What had looked like another cloud bank sailing in high from the west turned out to be the ice fields of the Coast Range. Mountain bluebirds wafted along the river. Gulls wheeled and screamed over the first slug of spawning candlefish. Water ouzels on rocks and logs bobbed, dipped, then marched into and under the current. Ravens harassed bald eagles. A snowy owl patrolled the meadow at high noon. Upstream there were beavers, river otters, a freshly undenned black bear, and, though we didn't see them, brown bears, moose, Sitka black-tailed deer, mountain goats, and wolverines. The river's sandy banks were littered with the spines, jaws, and gill plates of last year's spawned-out salmon -- all five species. In the clear water, salmon-size steelhead trout, minutes out of the Pacific, surged from our shadows or eased through deadfalls."