Last week, the Supreme Court declined to review the Tenth Circuit’s October 2011 decision upholding the Forest Service’s 2001 promulgation of rules limiting road-building and timber cutting in approximately 1.9 billion acres of National Forests (aka the Roadless Rule).
This was the final legal hurdle for the Roadless Rule, which over the last 10 years has been struck down and enjoined by the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, replaced by a Bush-era rule (which itself was then struck down by the Ninth Circuit), again struck down and enjoined by the District of Wyoming, and then, in 2011, upheld by the Tenth Circuit in Wyoming v. USDA. Pursuant to the Tenth Circuit’s decision, in March 2012 Judge Brimmer of the District of Wyoming lifted his nationwide injunction, allowing the Roadless Rule to take effect. Then, in May 2012, the Colorado Mining Association and the State of Wyoming filed petitions requesting Supreme Court review. The Supreme Court’s denial of review means the Roadless Rule can remain in effect unimpeded.
The Roadless Rule prohibits the construction of new roads, the reconstruction of roads, and timber cutting in areas of National Forests called Inventoried Roadless Areas. See Roadless Area Conservation Rule, 66 Fed. Reg. 3244, 3272 (Jan. 12, 2001) (36 C.F.R. §§ 294.12, 294.14). There are numerous exceptions to these prohibitions, however, including for road building to access existing mineral rights or pursuant to an existing permit or contract, and the Rule allows the building of construction areas that look similar to temporary roads. The Roadless Rule also does not apply to Colorado and Idaho, which have promulgated their own state-specific rules. More information on the Roadless Rule can be found on the Forest Service’s Roadless Area website.