US judge overturns wilderness ‘roadless rule’

A US federal judge has overturned a ban on constructing new roads in nearly a third of the US’s national forests, the AP news agency reports.

District Judge Clarence Brimmer issued a permanent injunction against the so-called “roadless rule“, introduced back in 2001 by the Clinton administration, saying it breached the National Environmental Policy Act and Wilderness Act.

The 2001 rule prohibted logging, mining and other developing on 58.5 million acres in 38 states and Puerto Rico.

Judge Brimmer, commenting on the Clinton-era ruling, said: “The Forest Service, in an attempt to bolster an outgoing president’s environmental legacy, rammed through an environmental agenda that itself violates the country’s well-established environmental laws.”

In 2005, the Bush administration replaced it with a procedure that required state governors to petition the US federal government to protect national forests in their states.

However, in 2006, another US District Judge, Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco, reinstated the 2001 ruling, which led to Wyoming to lodge its complaint.

After Judge Brimmer’s decision, Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg welcomed the judgement, saying the “roadless rule” jeopardised the well-being of national forests because it was necessary to gain access to deal with beetle infestations and forest fires.

Environmental groups have vowed to challenge the latest ruling, as the ongoing legal battle looks set to continue.

A spokesman for the Wilderness Society said the 2001 position had not changed: “It is not in anyway overturned or compromised by Judge Brimmer’s decision in Wyoming.

“What it does do is create two conflicting court decisions in different federal courts, different states; both issuing decisions with nationwide impacts.”

Source: AP

Date: 13/08/2008

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