Environmental groups hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of an appeal challenging a federal rule that bars development on 50 million acres of roadless areas in national forests, ending one of the main legal battles that had left the rule in doubt for more than a decade.
The justices said Monday they will leave in place a federal appeals court decision in a case brought by the state of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association that upheld the so-called roadless rule that took effect late in the presidency of Bill Clinton.
Wyoming and the CMA said closing so much forest land to development has had serious consequences for residents of Western states and the logging, mining and drilling industries.
Supporters of the rule said the nation’s forests need protection from development to preserve forested areas that provide wildlife and natural resource habitat for hunting, fishing and recreation as well as other benefits. They note the rule has exceptions to allow logging in order to protect the forest from severe wildfires and for public safety.
The decision leaves just one more current legal challenge against the rule – the challenge filed by Alaska is pending in federal court in Washington, D.C.
The roadless rule enacted under Clinton in 2001 had been upheld earlier by both the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit in separate cases. (AP)