Forest land road rule overturned
- Glen Martin, Chronicle Environment Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2006


(09-20) 15:53 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge has overturned a Bush administration rule that would've allowed states to build roads through millions of acres of federal forest land.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte, in a decision released Wednesday, ruled that the administration ignored both the National Environmental Policy Act and the U.S. Endangered Species Act in formulating its plan for roadless areas on federal public lands.

The ruling reinstitutes a policy drafted during the Clinton administration and implemented in 2001 that forbid new roads on more than 50 million acres of pristine wildlands. That includes 4.4 million acres in California.

It is unclear whether the administration will appeal the decision or try to draft a new plan that incorporates extensive environmental review.

Environmentalists hailed the decision, saying it vindicated their contention that the Bush rule was a simple attempt to open up public lands to mining, logging and off-road vehicles. Critics also said the Bush rule illegally overturned the Clinton-era plan.

"It's a great ruling," said Sean Cosgrove, the national forestry policy specialist for the Sierra Club. "It shows the strength of the 2001 rule, which was based on real science and extensive public input."

Opponents of the Clinton plan generally maintain that the new court ruling does nothing to break a long-standing logjam over national forest policy.

"We've been going over this thing for the eight years of the Clinton administration and six years with Bush, and what do we have to show for it?" asked David Bischel, the president of the California Forestry Association. "We're basically back to square one."

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