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Roadless Rule Headed to the Supreme Court?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on May 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Colorado Mining Association and the State of Wyoming are joining forces to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the Roadless Rule, a regulation that bans construction and reconstruction in certain inventoried roadless areas (IRAs).

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied en banc rehearing on the Roadless Rule in February; now the Clinton-era law's fate is in the Supreme Court's hands.

Attorney Paul Seby, who submitted the Colorado Mining Association's petition to the Supreme Court, told the Denver Post, "Congress never considered banning the multiple use of 58.5 million acres of lands forever -- including whether to put them off limits to responsible natural resource development and forest health management."

The Forest Service adopted the Interim Roadless Rule, an 18-month moratorium on road construction in most IRAs in March 1999. The interim rule, which continued through August 2000, temporarily suspended decision-making regarding road construction and reconstruction in many unroaded areas within the National Forest System (NFS).

In 2001, the Forest Service issued the final Roadless Rule, which prohibited road construction and reconstruction in IRAs, and banned the cutting, sale, or removal of timber from IRAs, subject to limited exceptions. Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association sued to challenge the Rule.

A Wyoming federal court blocked enforcement of the rule after the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association challenged the law in 2008. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the Roadless Rule in October 2011, and declined to reconsider the case this year.

Colorado Mining Association President Stuart Sanderson wants the Supreme Court to reverse the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. Sanderson claims, "If allowed to stand, the roadless rule will effectively prevent future mining operations on roadless lands, leading to a decrease in mineral and coal production, job losses and sharp decreases in taxes and revenues from the coal mining industry that are critical to local governments and public school systems," the Denver Post reports.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead agrees, telling the Wyoming Business Report, "This has real impacts for multiple use in Wyoming, and the rule was developed without meaningful input from any state, county or town. This rule affects our economy and our ability to fight the bark beetle epidemic."

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