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Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Protecting America's Last Heritage Forests

The New York Times, August 13, 2008

U.S. Judge in Wyoming Rules Against Ban on Forest Roads
By Felicity Barringer

A Clinton administration rule that banned the building of new roads on undeveloped tracts of federal forests was invalidated once again on Tuesday by a federal judge in Wyoming.

Judge Clarence A. Brimmer of Federal District Court upheld a request by the State of Wyoming to issue a permanent injunction against the mandate, saying that it violated two national environmental laws and left forest managers unable to do their jobs properly.

After being promulgated at the end of the Clinton administration, the rule was thrown out by Judge Brimmer in 2003. While an appeal was pending, the rule was supplanted, after long debate, by a Bush administration alternative.

That alternative was then thrown out in October 2006 by a federal magistrate judge in San Francisco, who argued that it had been created without the reviews required under national environmental laws. The Clinton rule, which had been in limbo pending the Wyoming appeal, was reinstated.

Judge Brimmer’s latest opinion bristled with anger not just at the original mandate to leave roadless tracts of federal forestlands as they were, but also at Mr. Clinton and at the magistrate judge in San Francisco, Elizabeth D. LaPorte.

Referring to the original Clinton-era decision, he wrote, “This court is of the opinion that the Forest Service violated the public interest when it flagrantly and cavalierly railroaded this country’s present environmental laws in an attempt to build an outgoing president’s enduring fame.”

Judge Brimmer also wrote that he was “disturbed and, frankly, shocked” at Judge LaPorte’s decision, since in his view he outranked her.

An appeal of Judge LaPorte’s decision is pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

Kristen Boyles, a lawyer for Earthjustice, an environmental group that had intervened in the case in defense of the Clinton rule, said Tuesday that her organization would appeal Judge Brimmer’s ruling. In the interim, she said, the Forest Service should not make decisions about selling timber contracts in the disputed areas.

“They should keep the status quo,” Ms. Boyles said. “Don’t go into the roadless areas, don’t cause irreparable harm until we get more clarity from the appellate courts.”

Copyright 2008, The New York Times Company

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton