Alaska’s bid for more logging in roadless areas hits a brick wall
Fifteen years of wrangling over a national public lands roadless rule ended with a whimper last week, as the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the State of Alaska to open parts of the Tongass National Forest to logging.
Alaska went to the Supreme Court to try and overturn lower court rulings that had found that the Bush administration improperly exempted the Tongass from the landmark conservation measure.
A coalition including the Organized Village of Kake (a federally recognized Alaska Native tribe), tourism businesses, and conservationists joined the federal government in urging the Supreme Court to leave the lower court rulings intact.
The roadless sections of the Tongass National Forest are important for wildlife and to local residents for hunting, fishing, recreation, and tourism, the driving forces of the local economy.
“The Supreme Court’s decision means that America’s biggest national forest, the Tongass, will continue to benefit from a common-sense rule that applies nationwide,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo.
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.
In its petition to the Supreme Court, the Colorado mining group repeats the oft-rejected claim that the roadless rule was adopted in violation of federal environmental laws, and that the rule is “a sweeping usurpation of the authority vested solely in Congress to designate lands as wilderness.”
Even though federal appeals courts have rejected those legal challenges, at least one natural resource law expert thinks the array of heavyweight opposition could sway the Supreme Court’s conservative justices to take on the case.