After a decade of legal challenges, the "roadless rule" landed on the U.S. Supreme Court's doorstep—and on Monday, the court opted to leave it in place rather than hear the latest appeal. The rule doesn't allow new roadbuilding on millions of acres of national forestland in three dozen states, including Utah. The decision not to hear their appeal is a victory in the conservation community, says Mike Anderson with the Wilderness Society.
"It's been up and down in the courts, in different circuits, but this really does put a great deal of certainty into the legality of the roadless rule's protections."
Conservation and recreation are not the only reasons the Forest Service wants to curtail roadbuilding, according to attorney Kristin Boyles with Earthjustice. She says the agency has budgetary reasons as well.
"They also looked at the cost of roads and road maintenance and thought, the agency just cannot continue to build roads, because they ahd so much economic backlog from having the roads that were already there."
The roadless rule was the last major policy put into place by President Clinton before leaving office in 2001. Anderson points out that some mining and motorized vehicle use is allowed in roadless areas. About half of the Forest Service-managed land in Utah is covered by the rule.