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Tenth Circuit Reinstates Roadless Rule

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the Clinton-era “Roadless Rule” today in a 120-page decision.

A Wyoming federal court blocked enforcement of the rule, designed to protect 49 million acres of roadless forests and grasslands, after the State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association challenged the law in 2008, reports The Denver Post.

The Forest Service initially adopted the Interim Roadless Rule, an 18-month moratorium on road construction in most inventoried roadless areas (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 October 1999, while the Interim Roadless Rule was in effect, President Bill Clinton "directed the Forest Service to develop ... regulations to provide appropriate long-term protection for most or all of these currently inventoried roadless areas" in the NFS.

On January 12, 2001, the Forest Service issued the final Roadless Rule and the Record of Decision on the rule. The final Roadless Rule prohibits road construction and reconstruction in IRAs, and prohibits the cutting, sale, or removal of timber from IRAs, subject to limited exceptions.

Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association argued that the rule violated the 1964 Wilderness Act, reports ABC News. The district court agreed.

In its reversal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district court abused its discretion in permanently enjoining the Roadless Rule on a nationwide basis because the court's action was based on the erroneous legal conclusion that Wyoming had succeeded on the merits of its claims.

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