[Vision2020] Judge Tosses Bush's Roadless Forest Rule
thansen at moscow.com
Thu Sep 21 06:58:37 PDT 2006
>From today's (September 21, 2006) Spokesman Review -
"Idaho Gov. Jim Risch, who spent months working up his detailed proposal for
managing Idaho's 9.3 million acres of roadless forests, vowed to proceed
with his plan regardless. 'It is only a step,' Risch said of the California
ruling. 'There's going to be lots more happening.'"
Judge tosses Bush's roadless forest rule
Risch vows to proceed with state plan
Betsy Z. Russell
September 21, 2006
BOISE - Just as Idaho unveiled a groundbreaking new proposal for managing
roadless forest lands in the state Wednesday, a federal judge in California
threw out the Bush administration rule that asked states to take that role -
and reinstated the 2001 Clinton administration rule that banned all
road-building in roadless national forests.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire called it a "great day for Washington," which
was one of four states that sued to challenge the Bush rule. Gregoire said
Washington residents submitted more than 80,000 comments on the 2001
roadless rule, and 96 percent favored "complete protection."
"I am very pleased with the decision of the court," Gregoire said. "Roadless
areas contribute to our quality of life and our economy by providing clean
water, fish and wildlife habitat along with recreational and business
Idaho Gov. Jim Risch, who spent months working up his detailed proposal for
managing Idaho's 9.3 million acres of roadless forests, vowed to proceed
with his plan regardless. "It is only a step," Risch said of the California
ruling. "There's going to be lots more happening."
U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey said the Bush administration
will comply with the court's decision, but still will proceed with reviewing
the new "state-specific" plans for roadless areas. Idaho is the sixth state
to submit such a plan - and the first to propose significant development on
some of its roadless lands.
Rey said three federal judges have now upheld the 2001 Clinton roadless
rule, and three have overturned it. "And I suspect there will be more
federal judges" weighing in, he said. Once Idaho's petition is processed,
Rey said, another judge could again overturn the Clinton rule. Then, the
Risch plan would kick in as the protection for Idaho's roadless areas, he
"Prudence suggests that we carry forward," Rey said. "I find it hard to
believe that continuing to battle it out in federal courts is a better
outcome than what we've seen here."
Gregoire said Washington is working on its own state-specific petition and
is currently seeking public input with plans to submit a petition in
November. "I am committed to exercising all options to protect the character
of our roadless areas," she said.
Mike Petersen, of Spokane, executive director of the Lands Council, said he
was "very thrilled" to learn of the court's decision. The Forest Service is
gearing up now to conduct timber harvests in roadless forests in North
Idaho, Petersen said, and the ruling will help stop these sales, including a
controversial proposal to harvest trees in the Myrtle Creek watershed near
Bonners Ferry, Idaho.
About 800,000 acres in North Idaho, roughly a third of the Idaho Panhandle
National Forests, were declared largely off-limits to new road building or
development by the original roadless rule.
The Intermountain Forest Association came out in support of Risch's plan but
said it didn't go far enough to allow more logging. "Many of Idaho's
roadless areas are overstocked with trees, which choke each other out in
competition for nutrients and sunlight," association spokeswoman Serena
Howarth said in a news release.
Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, said of
the court ruling, "It is just one step, but it is in my view a very big
Rey said he thinks it's now likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will make the
final ruling on the issue.
Idaho has 9.3 million acres of designated roadless lands in its national
forests, while Washington has 2 million. The two states have taken opposite
approaches to the roadless issue, with Washington strongly backing the 2001
Clinton administration ban on new road building, and Idaho successfully
suing earlier in federal court to overturn the rule, a ruling that later was
overturned on appeal, but then was superseded by the Bush administration's
new state-specific rule in 2005.
That rule allowed governors to submit petitions asking to either protect
their state's roadless areas, or to allow development on some or all of
them. So far, state petitions have sought mainly to protect the areas,
though Rey said there have been some proposed changes in boundaries and
Risch said he's spent huge amounts of time analyzing and going over the 275
parcels that make up Idaho's roadless areas.
"The environmental groups are absolutely right when they say that included
in this group of 275 are some of the most magnificent lands in the entire
world," the governor said. Those spots, he said, must be protected "at all
costs." But he also declared that those who'd say all 9.3 million acres
should be "locked up as wilderness" are wrong. Idaho's roadless areas, Risch
said, are "a grand mosaic of every kind of land that you could possibly
Risch's plan divides the lands into four categories that would have
decreasing levels of protection:
.Wildland recreation, the most restrictive category, 1.4 million acres. No
road-building would be allowed; forest health measures would be limited to
prescribed fire. Motorized travel would be allowed only where it's already
.Primitive, 1.7 million acres. Salvage logging and fuel reduction projects
would be allowed, but no road construction or intensive timber management.
Motorized travel would be allowed where it's allowed now.
.Backcountry, 5.5 million acres. Some commercial logging would be allowed as
part of forest health projects; temporary roads could be built with
mitigation for their environmental impacts. Motorized travel would be
allowed where it's allowed now.
.General forest, the least restrictive category, 521,169 acres. Permanent
road construction would be allowed, as would a full range of commercial
logging and forest health measures including prescribed fire. Motorized
travel would be allowed where it is now and possibly in other areas, subject
to travel planning.
Little of the North Idaho Panhandle's roadless land would fall into the
least restrictive category. Instead, the plan designates most Panhandle
roadless areas as "backcountry" and some as "wildland." But there are two
roadless parcels in Boundary County that would shift to "general forest"
under the Risch plan: Kootenai Peak and the Hellroaring roadless area.
Panhandle forest officials said they hadn't yet had a chance to review the
Jim Caswell, a top aide to Risch, said the uses called for in the roadless
petition are consistent with a draft forest plan already being developed for
the Panhandle National Forests.
Risch said his plan also matches up with two pending wilderness bills in
Congress - Sen. Mike Crapo's Owyhee Initiative and Rep. Mike Simpson's
proposal for the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains.
Nez Perce Tribal Chairwoman Rebecca Miles attended the announcement and
thanked Risch for taking her tribe's input seriously. Risch said the plan is
structured to protect specific areas important to the Nez Perce, including
Pilot Knob in the Nez Perce National Forest, the Nemiipuu Historic Trail in
the Clearwater National Forest and the Pioneer Area in the Mallard-Larkins
Seeya round town, Moscow.
"I love my country but fear my government."
- Author Unknown
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