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Ninth Circuit prohibits construction, timber removal in National Forest System

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court ruling reinstating the Roadless Rule [text], which prohibited the building of roads or the use of roadless lands in National Parks for timber production. The Clinton administration measure was effectively overturned in 2005 by the State Petitions Rule [text], enacted by the US Department of Agriculture [official website] under President George W Bush. The State Petitions Rule allowed governors to petition for Roadless Rule protections, depending on their individual state needs, in lieu of blanket protection. Affirming the ruling, Judge Robert Beezer [official profile] wrote that the State Petitions Rule violated the National Environmental Policy Act because it was enacted without an environmental impact statement [EPA materials]:

In the context of this case, we cannot condone a marked
change in roadless area management without environmental analysis because it was the USDA’s preferred response to an untested district court injunction that was subject to possible reversal in a pending appeal.

As expected, reactions to the ruling varied. The environmental group Earthjustice [advocacy website] lauded the ruling, calling it a victory for all citizens [press release] who enjoy the outdoors, and for cities that rely on the wilderness for fresh water. The Intermountain Forest Association [advocacy website], a logging industry group, said that it was too early to say definitively what the ruling means [NYT report].

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was implemented by former president Bill Clinton in 2001 and replaced [JURIST report] by the Bush administration in 2005. In March, the US House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 [HR 146 materials], a collection of more than 160 bills aimed at preserving federal land as wilderness areas. The Act includes a rule which allows governors to request that regulations on the management of roadless areas be developed to meet the needs of individual states. The Clinton-era rule would have prohibited mining, logging, and road construction in the forests of 38 states and Puerto Rico, totaling more than 58 million acres of land.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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