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More Changes In The "Roadless Rule"

The roller coaster of the Roadless Rule continues on, spiraling up, to the joy of conservationists, when back in December the 9th Circuit Court overturned the federal court injunction of 2001. Roadless areas, once again, received the protection by the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (RACR).

But, as should have been expected, it was short-lived when the G.W.Bush administration and the Forest Service in early July proposed changes to the rule which, in essence, exempted the Alaska National Forests from application of the RACR. Furthermore, a proposed change to the rule was to be initiated this fall which would allow Governors to seek "relief" from the RACR - in other words, exemption in order to protect human health and safety, reduce fuel hazards, maintain facilities such as dams or make "technical" corrections to Roadless boundaries!

The spiral down was in motion, only to be steepened and confused a week later when a Wyoming federal judge struck down the rule, forcing another appeal this time to the 10th Circuit Court. The rule has been enjoined again, but not without consternation since the 9th Circuit Court, which oversees all the public land states except Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, has determined the rule to be legal only to have a federal judge now rule that nationwide the rule is illegal!

Many legal scholars note this ruling runs counter point by point to the 9th Circuit Court decision and goes so far as to say the RACR rule violates the Wilderness Act. Amazingly enough, areas protected under the RACR have nowhere near the protection offered by congressionally designated Wilderness under the Wilderness Act, making this assertion by the judge one of deep confusion.

So we wait for all of this to be unscrambled.

Add to this additional rules that have been put in place administratively by the Forest Service and the GW Bush administration which make it harder to file appeals or comments on projects, hide many timber harvesting proposals behind the hysteria of fire prevention and then exempt them from appeals, and we have not a path to less bureaucracy and more responsive government or PUBLIC forest management, but a gate placed squarely in front of open, inclusive forest management and policy! That is the only intent of these projects and sadly enough it is working.

Dick Carter

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