Judge reinstates 'Roadless Rule'

This is from USA Today, but I have been getting email too about this great, if tentative, victory over Bush and his band of wild country pillagers.

Reinstatement of Clinton’s rule protecting the remaining unroaded areas (5000 acres or larger) on Forest Service managed public lands will protect the environment, protect wildlife habitat, scenery, and the taxpaying citizens of America.

Idaho’s Governor Jim Risch plans to go ahead anyway despite court ruling on roadless. This is a late Sept. 20 story from the AP in the Idaho Statesman.

In the short run this makes little difference because areas are roadless because they are steep, rocky, high, cold, and maybe arid. Cutting trees and building roads are uneconomic unless an enormous subsidy is given by the federal government. Of course there are interests in Idaho who would love the handout to log areas miles from towns in the name of forest fire prevention.

It is true that the issue might end up before the Supreme Court.

Sept. 21. Risch’s proposal was announced today. Article by Rocky Barker in the Idaho Statesman.

The governor’s argument used to justify possible logging in about 7 million acres out of the 9 million roadless acres on Idaho’s national forests is fire prevention. Idaho politicians used say “timber jobs,” but in recent years fire prevention has become a politically more popular justification for not conserving roadless areas.

Fire prevention is a bad argument because roadless areas are not where fires disproportionately start, nor do the most damage. The places where the trees need to be thinned is around the mountain sub-divisions.

It is true that conifer killing insects are heavy in many places in Idaho, but they are in the increase all over the West, including especially Canada. Why is this? Much of it is caused by recent warm winters. Cold winters used to bring the insect populations down. No amount of feasible forest thinning is going to alter this scary fact. Winters now are warmer. Insects will kill more trees.
Fires kills the insects better than logging does, not to mention uneconomic logging. I think we are witnessing what one would expect in a warming climate, gradually the forests are replaced by grasslands. Insects and fires (or logging) is the first step.

Sinapu has a much more detailed story on the reaction to the new roadless decision.

Sept. 29. “Wild Bill” (Bill Schneider) has a good analysis in New West.







  1. Bing Avatar

    I hope this holds up through the inevitable appeals up the federal court system!

  2. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    Gee, when Idaho has finally managed to log 7 million acres, leaving the place unattractive to tourists, hunters, fishers, hikers, horsemen, and seekers of solitude, we’ll welcome them to New Mexico. Our state was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and our governor, Bill Richardson, filed one of the very first state petitions–to protect our remaining roadless areas for future generations.

    The fire prevention excuse is bogus, in any event, because I believe the original roadless rule allowed for various emergency exceptions, including those relating to fire protection. In the Idaho proposal, you can be sure that what actually gets logged, as opposed to the areas merely opened to logging and road building, will be big, old growth stands–not the little stuff around communities, where the actual fire problem lies. Fire in the wilderness is not a “problem,” but rather a natural process.

    By the way, it is interesting that among the groups filing amicus curiae briefs in support of the Bush administration were several snowmobile, ATV, and four wheel drive lobbying groups, along with the timber industry. This is not about fire prevention!

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    You have it figured out completely, I’d say.

  4. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    For those interested in reading the judge’s ruling, the Center for Biological Diversity has a link to the opinion (PDF format) on their web site at the following address:


    The link is underlined in the first paragraph of the press release.