Been wondering what's new with the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule? Well, being the inveterate wonks we are, we've got an update for you on the latest with this 2001 rule that banned most logging and road building (but not off-roading or mining) on 58.5 million acres of national forest.
But first, a bit of history: In 2004, Bush repealed the rule, but allowed states to develop their own forest-protection plans. Which meant that states had to petition the federal government to protect roadless areas within their boundaries, that residents of other states had no say in those petitions, and that each state could thus have a different set of rules. Idaho and Colorado quickly drafted proposals. Idaho’s regulations, approved in 2008, protect about 9 million acres and open 400,000 to road-building, logging and mining.
This February, a federal judge upheld Idaho’s rule after environmentalists charged that it would harm endangered caribou and grizzly bears. And last week, Colorado released a new draft of its proposal, which would protect most of its 4 million roadless acres but allow new transmission lines, logging to control pine beetles, temporary drilling and coal-mining roads, and energy development on roughly 100,000 acres. The plan is open for public comment until July 14.
As for Clinton’s original roadless rule, it was reinstated in 2006, but its legal status won’t be resolved until appeals of a 2008 injunction are decided, probably early this year.
Jodi Peterson is managing editor of High Country News.