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Federal judge dismisses challenge to Idaho forest management plan

A judge for the US District Court for the District Court for Idaho [official website] dismissed a lawsuit Friday brought by environmentalists challenging Idaho's state-created "roadless rule" [JURIST news archive] to protect its forests. Judge B Lynn Winmill's ruling upholds Idaho's plan [AP report] to manage its 9 million acres of forests across the state. The National Forest Service (NFS) [official website] issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule [text] in 2001, which prohibited the building of roads or the use of roadless lands in National Parks for timber production. It is currently in force in all states except Idaho and Alaska's Tongass National Forest [official website]. Idaho created its own roadless rule that the Wilderness Society, Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC), and the Sierra Club [advocacy websites] were challenging. The groups argue [GYC backgrounder] that Idaho's version of the rule gives less protection to about 5.3 million acres of roadless forests than the 2001 federal rule with some areas removed from all protections. Idaho's rule was backed by federal land and wildlife managers. The ruling is being hailed [press release] by US Senator James Risch (R-ID) and Governor CL Otter (R) [official websites] who say it is an example of state's ability to create their own environmental regulations.

Last February, a federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment [JURIST report] for the NFS, upholding an agreement limiting the amount of timber that can be harvested in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. Several Alaska towns and companies challenged the 2008 forest plan, which, among other things, designated parts of the forest "old growth reserves," limiting the amount of timber that could be harvested. In 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld [JURIST report] a ruling reinstating the 2001 Roadless Rule. 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 then-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.

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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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