After years of volleying between federal and state control, Wyoming has placed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule back in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Roadless Rule, as it is commonly known, originated in the Clinton administration, making new roads off limits for almost 50 million acres of national forest land. The Bush administration rerouted control of the lands to states in 2004. But in 2006, a federal court reinstated the rules barring road building, logging and development on the lands. Since then, states have been individually fighting the rule on various grounds.
Wyoming has figured prominently in the fight. With 3.2 million acres of forest land hanging in the balance, the state has argued that the U.S. Forest Service usurped the power of Congress and violated the 1964 Wilderness Act to instate the rule.
A federal judge in Wyoming twice overturned the Roadless Rule nationwide, but an October decision by a Denver appeals court reversed the lower court's decision, leaving Wyoming to seek higher recourse. If this effort fails, it will likely be Wyoming's last chance to reverse the rule.
"This has real impacts for multiple use in Wyoming, and the rule was developed without meaningful input from any state, county or town," said Gov. Matt Mead in a statement. "This rule affects our economy and our ability to fight
the bark beetle epidemic
Despite environmental appeals like Mead's, environmentalists have largely lauded the overturned ruling.
"Roadless areas in our national forests provide a refuge for America's wildlife, protect the sources for much of the nation's pure drinking water and are a recreational haven for millions of hunters, anglers and hikers," said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. "We'll work to protect America's best roadless forests and defeat Wyoming's last-ditch attempt to bulldoze, drill and clear-cut these irreplaceable natural areas."
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