13 Aug 2008, 11:57am
Latest Forest News
by admin

Judge rules against ban on forest roads

The federal judge decided in favor of Wyoming, again, which requested an order against a Clinton-era rule.

BY FELICITY BARRINGER - NYT News Service, 08/13/08 [here]

A Clinton administration rule that banned the building of new roads on undeveloped tracts of federal forests was invalidated once again Tuesday by a federal judge in Wyoming.

Judge Clarence A. Brimmer of U.S. District Court upheld a request by the state of Wyoming to issue a permanent injunction against the mandate, saying it violated two national environmental laws and left forest managers unable to do their jobs properly.

Brimmer essentially reissued a decision he made in 2003 that was made moot by a decision in 2006 by a California judge.

The ruling removes a ban on roadbuilding for 9.3 million acres of Idaho’s 20 million acres of national forest.

The U.S. Forest Service is working on a draft plan for managing Idaho’s roadless lands, started by former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, written by former Gov. Jim Risch and backed by Gov. Butch Otter. It is expected to be completed this fall.

If Brimmer’s decision holds, Idaho could have the only roadless protection plan in the country, said Jonathan Oppenheimer, a forest specialist for the Idaho Conservation League.

Environmentalists already said they planned to sue.

After being promulgated at the end of the Clinton administration, the roadless rule was thrown out by Brimmer in 2003. While an appeal was pending, the rule was supplanted, after long debate, by a Bush administration alternative.

That alternative was then thrown out in October 2006 by a federal magistrate judge in San Francisco, who argued that it had been created without the reviews required under national environmental laws. The Clinton rule was reinstated.

Brimmer’s latest opinion bristled with anger at the original mandate and at Clinton and at the magistrate judge in San Francisco, Elizabeth D. LaPorte.

Referring to the original Clinton-era decision, he wrote, “This court is of the opinion that the Forest Service violated the public interest when it flagrantly and cavalierly railroaded this country’s present environmental laws in an attempt to build an outgoing president’s enduring fame.”

An appeal of LaPorte’s decision is pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

[Hopefully Judge Brimmer's decision will be posted on the web [here] by next week.]



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