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Roadless Area Conservation Rule

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was a landmark conservation initiative enacted in 2001 to protect 58.5 million acres of roadless areas in our national forests from most logging and road-building. Since then it has been both rescinded, and most recently, reinstated.

Landmark protection challenged

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was a landmark conservation initiative enacted in 2001 to protect 58.5 million acres of roadless areas in our national forests from most logging and road-building. The rule allowed for continued management of roadless areas against fire and disease, while preserving these public lands as a legacy for our children.

Rule out, petitioning process in

In May of 2005, the current Administration repealed the 2001 roadless rule replacing it with a voluntary process that requires state governors to petition the U.S. Forest Service to protect their state's roadless areas. If a governor chooses not to petition, roadless areas would be managed under individual forest plans, which allow road-building and logging on much of the 58.5 million acres of roadless areas across the country. Washington State contains two million acres of pristine roadless areas. Now over 770,000 acres are immediately at risk from road-building, logging, and development, while the rest will be at risk in the future.

Forest management planning

To complicate matters further, the Forest Service is expected to identify roadless areas within its boundaries, as part of its process of developing long-term forest management plans. This process is still underway for roadless areas in northeastern Washington on the Colville and Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forests.

Ruling on legal challenge for forests

To protect roadless forests, Conservation Northwest joined with others in a legal challenge led by EarthJustice that sought to reinstate protection of America's roadless areas and to invalidate repeal of the Roadless Rule.

On September 20, 2006, Federal Judge Elizabeth La Porte ruled on the lawsuit and found that the Bush administration acted illegally by not considering the environmental impacts of replacing the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule with a state-by-state petition process for roadless area protection. The recent ruling effectively reinstates the 2001 rule, protecting 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in our national forest system, including two million acres in Washington State. The ruling does not affect about 9.3 million acres of Alaska's Tongass National Forest, which received an exemption from the ban in 2003.

For more on the Sept. 20, 2006, ruling

For more on roadless forests

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