September 29, 2017
Woohoo! EarthJustice just won a 16-year-long battle to protect 50 million acres of forests from logging and road construction U.S. after a district court threw out an attack by the state of Alaska against the Roadless Rule that protects roadless areas of national forests.
The Roadless Rule was adopted towards the end of the Clinton administration and it prohibits most logging and road construction in roadless areas of national forests – which come up to about 50 million acres, that is about the size of Nebraska. The precious lands are some of the wildest places that still exist in America.
Although overwhelmingly popular among Americans and appreciated by the Forest Service, the rule soon became a problem to state political leaders with ties to the logging and timber industries, and they began attacking it even before Clinton left office. The new Bush administration failed to defend the rule. In that moment, Earthjustice stepped in.
“When we first started this, it never crossed my mind we would still be litigating the rule 16 years later,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo, one of the legal architects of the organization’s Roadless Rule strategy.
The main legal battles during this long and tasking period came from Idaho, Wyoming, and, Alaska, all of which challenged the rule. Each of the challenges was met with eager defense from Earthjustice. One case at a time, the organization began to win.
Just last week, the very final challenge to the rule was shot down when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the state of Alaska’s claims lacked merit. The state could appeal the decision or the President could try to reverse it – but, because of the wide support for the rule, its benefits, and previous successes in multiple courts, any attempts at getting rid of the protections will be faced with a serious legal and political battle.
“When you have this 16-year-long experience of consistently having the courts uphold the rule, it helps build a track record of success and popularity that will hopefully help carry us through any challenges and provide a solid foundation for the rule’s continued success,” said Waldo – and, hopefully, the recent win of the Roadless Rule will prove to be the very final one.