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U.S. Supreme Court rejects national forest roadless rule challenge

State, mining and ranching groups lose bid to overturn protection for 58 million acres of environmental valuable wild lands

The national forest roadless rule stands.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A last-ditch effort by miners, ranchers and other extractive users to overturn the U.S. Forest Service’s national roadless rule has failed, as the U.S. Supreme Court reject a plea to hear the case.

The formal petition came from the state of Wyoming, which last year lost its challenge in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Wyoming was joined in the petition by eight other states, numerous mining and ranching groups, along with several motorized recreation groups.

The states and groups repeated their oft-rejected claims that the rule was adopted in violation of federal environmental laws and that the rule represented a de facto illegal creation of wilderness.

“Today’s Supreme Court action validates one of America’s most important and popular land conservation policies,” said Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group. “Without the national standard of protection the rule provides, millions of acres of America’s last pristine national forests could be lost to logging and other industrial development.”

A federal appeals court upheld the roadless rule in Oct. 2011 in a  unanimous ruling, which followed a similar decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The unanimous decisions by the lower courts made a Supreme Court hearing unlikely.

The rule was issued to protect nearly 60 million acres, or roughly one-third of undeveloped Forest Service lands. It was the result of the largest public lands review in U.S. history, with more than 1.2 million comments and 600 public hearings.

The rule was first published in the final days of the Clinton administration, then revoked in the early days of the Bush administration and replaced with a state-by-state rule-making process.

Since the national rule was adopted, Colorado developed and adopted its own rule, covering about 4.2 million acres of national forest land within the state. Should the U.S. Supreme Court decide to hear the case, any subsequent ruling would probably not affect the Colorado version of the rule.

The Colorado Mining Association was a leader in challenging the rule, claiming it would result in harm to stakeholders beyond the mining industry, to agriculture, recreation and tourism interests. According to the CMA, the rule would  prevent future mining and oil and gas operations on roadless lands, resulting in  decreased production, job losses, and sharp decreases in taxes and revenues.

The organizations that asked U.S. Supreme Court to take the case includes: the National Mining Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, the American Forest Resource Council and the American Sheep Industry Association, the Alaska Miners Association, Arizona Mining Association, Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, Mining Minnesota, Montana Mining Association, Northwest Mining Association, New Mexico Mining Association, Utah Mining Association, the Western Business Roundtable, the Western Energy Alliance, Mountain States Legal Foundation, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Intermountain Forest Association, and the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation. The Blue Ribbon Coalition and the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Club.

The eight states filing amicus briefs were Alabama, Utah, Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia.  the Western Energy Alliance, Mountain States Legal Foundation, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Intermountain Forest Association, and the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation. The Blue Ribbon Coalition and the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Club.

 

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