Roadless Wildlands At Risk
Oregon's roadless areas are threatened by reckless logging, mining, and other development under a 2005 Bush administration rule.
The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule) was, and remains, one of the most popular conservation efforts in history. However, since its enactment it has encountered fierce resistance from the timber industry, anti-conservation states, and the Bush administration. After a series of on-going court battles, the Bush administration repealed the Roadless Rule in 2004. The new Bush administration policy, introduced in 2004 but not enacted until May of 2005, removed important conservation protections for backcountry roadless lands by allowing logging, mining, drilling, and road building to occur. Though the Bush rule was struck down as illegal, management guidelines for roadless areas remain unclear due to conflicting rulings and two separate state processes.
Oregon Makes a Stand
Oregon has historically led the nation in protecting our roadless wildlands. During the extensive rulemaking process, Oregonians submitted more public comments per capita than any other state. Over 90% of those comments were in favor of the Rule.
After the new Bush administration rule took effect in May of 2005, thousands of Oregonians spoke out against the new policy. Prominent outdoor recreation groups, businesses, and conservation groups, including Oregon Wild, also voiced their concerns by sending letters to the head of the US Forest Service highlighting the importance of roadless areas to the state's economy, quality of life, fish and wildlife, and outdoor recreation.
Governor Ted Kulongoski, who has called Oregon's roadless areas "priceless treasures," asked the Bush administration to promptly reinstate Roadless Rule protections for Oregon's roadless areas. The Bush administration denied Governor Kulongoski's request.
In August of 2005, Governor Kulongoski and the State of Oregon joined California and New Mexico in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the new Bush rule. Shortly thereafter, Washington and Montana also joined the lawsuits.
Recognizing that the Bush administration had likely broken the law with its new policy, Oregon Wild and several other conservation groups also filed a court challenge.
On September 20, 2006, a federal judge ruled on both the states' and conservationists' lawsuits, finding that the Bush administration had indeed broken the law. The judge ruled that Bush administration officials had failed to comply with important federal environmental laws when repealing the 2001 Roadless Rule. In particular, the judge found that the Bush administration had violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Because the Bush administration had acted illegally, the judge reinstated the original 2001 Roadless Rule, thereby protecting, once again, pristine roadless lands in our National Forests.
Within days of the September 20th ruling, the timber industry announced they intent to appeal the federal court's decision.
Also in 2006, Oregon Representatives DeFazio, Blumenauer, Wu, and Hooley co-sponsored legislation to codify the Roadless Rule. That legislation gained national attention and was supported by over 120 outdoor businesses the next year in an effort spearheaded by Oregon Wild.
Unfortunately, on August 12, 2008 a federal judge in Wyoming ruled to overturn the 2001 Roadless Rule. That decision has been appealed, and though the rule does remain mostly intact, uncertainty still exists for roadless wildlands across the country.
In 2008 citizens made their voices heard by electing a president who has made reinstatement of the 2001 rule a top priority. In May of 2009, the administration called what many are calling a "timeout" on roadless projects while they determine how best to honor their promise. Despite that positive action, the administration has sent mixed signals. Those mixed signals have, understandably, resulted in mixed results on the ground here in Oregon. Thankfully, Oregon leaders have continued to walk the talk on roadless.
- Roadless Wildlands Homepage
- What are Roadless Areas and why are they Important?
- A Look at Oregon's Roadless Wild Lands
- Common Sense Protections: The 2001 Roadless Rule
- TAKE ACTION!