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One Win for the Forests

New York Times celebrates a rare win for conservation during a time of unprecedented attacks on the environment

By Editorial
New York Times

The environment and its allies have not had many victories recently, but there was a big one on Friday when the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld the “roadless rule” — a Clinton administration regulation barring new road-building on 50 million acres of the national forests. The timber industry, off-road vehicle users and other commercial and political interests have long battled the rule, which will establish essential protections for the forests and the clean water, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities they provide.

The 10th Circuit is the second appellate court to uphold the rule, and chances are slim that the Supreme Court would take up the issue. But House Republicans will almost certainly keep trying to undermine the rule as part their attack on environmental laws that have long protected millions of acres of sensitive forests, deserts, cultural areas and wildlife refuges. One ridiculous bill would give the Department of Homeland Security power to override dozens of protections on federal lands within 100 miles of American borders to help fight illegal immigration. Another — with more traction — would eviscerate the president’s authority to designate national monuments, a power used to good effect by most presidents since Theodore Roosevelt.

Another, introduced months ago by Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, would overturn the roadless rule. Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has called the McCarthy bill, which contains other antiwilderness provisions, “the most radical, overreaching attempt to dismantle the architecture of our public lands laws that has been proposed in my lifetime.” Ours, too.

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