A Wrong Righted & Idaho Government Continues a Dark Plight

9.20.2006
I was informed earlier today by Jonathan Oppenheimer of the ICL (Idaho Conservation League) that the 2001 Roadless Rule had been reinstated - a monumental victory for the environment and all who enjoy it. A wrong righted.

The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule was created to establish a nationwide blanket to protect inventoried roadless areas as a whole; it grants the same high level of protection and management to every single roadless area regardless of state legislation (USDA Forest Service, 2005). This approach makes sense because roadless areas often are independent of state and political boundaries, and as such, should be managed as a whole.

The 2001 Roadless Rule was the most supported set of Federal laws ever enacted; 95% of over 1.6 million comments submitted were in support of 2001 Roadless Rule (Wilderness Society, 2005).

Following the news from the ICL, the President of the Wilderness Society issued a formal statement, which can be viewed here. Sadly, on the eve of such great news, and the very same day of the reinstatement, Idaho's Governor announced plans to stay the course - and go against the reinstatement of the nationwide roadless rule. Idaho plans to continue with the grossly unbalanced petition process aimed at building roads into roadless areas for logging, drilling and other invasive and destructive activities. Finally, protections are restored that should have never been revoked in the first place, but yet it matters not to those in power in Idaho.

Interesting facts about Idaho’s roadless areas:
  • Idaho has the most roadless land in the lower 48 with over 9.3 million acres
  • Over 54% of Idaho’s public land is developed; leaving 46% of public land that is considered roadless
  • 74% of Steelhead and Chinook Salmon habitat in roadless areas
  • Steelhead and Salmon fishers spend $60 million annually in Idaho
(Wilderness Society, 2005)

Roadless areas are important because they represent our remaining intact ecosystems, water systems, wildlife areas and open-spaces. Roadless areas represent 2% of land in the entire US (Wilderness Society, 2005). That's all that is left... 2%. If we don't protect our roadless areas now there will be nothing left.

"We simply need wild country available to us, even if we do no more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope." Wallace Stegner

Roadless Rule Background
On May 5th, 2005, the Bush Administration revoked the widely-supported 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule and replaced it with the 2005 Roadless Rule. Under this new rule, approximately 60 million acres of pristine wild forests were now open for logging, drilling, road building and other destructive forms of development (Idaho Conservation League, 2005).

The Bush Administration was able to revoke the 2001 Roadless Rule by focusing on changing federal regulations in order to quietly replace the Roadless Rule. Federal regulations are basically proposals that allow for fundamental changes to be made to roadless management with little media attention and a small amount (if any) of public involvement (Wilderness Society, 2005).

On September 20th, 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth LaPorte ruled that the Bush Administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act when it repealed the 2001 Roadless Rule. The court found the Bush Administration acted illegally, and reinstated the original 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Wilderness Society, 2006). Management of our public lands has been given back to the public, and taken away from special interest groups. Tainted, greedy Governors and State Governments remain as the largest threat to roadless areas.

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