The decade-long fight over the Roadless Rule may finally be over–and it looks like sportsmen won.
That was the consensus among sportsmen’s conservation groups after the U.S. Supreme Court Monday decided not to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that upheld the rule, which limits road building and timber harvesting on about 45 million acres of undeveloped Forest Service lands, most of which are in the West.
The state of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association claimed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule illegally hampered development on multi-use lands, while other petitioners said it created de-facto wilderness areas, a power the 1964 Wilderness Act gives only to Congress.
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court affirms the value of backcountry areas in sustaining healthy and secure habitat for fish and wildlife,” said Joel Webster, director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands. “These are values hunters and anglers both have benefitted from and supported for years. Sound roadless conservation policies safeguard big-game habitat security, productive trout and salmon fisheries and our sporting traditions.”
The rule, which was put into place in the last days of the Clinton Administration, was aggressively attacked during the pro-development Bush Administration. It became a political and legal pinball for almost a decade as sportsmen’s groups joined environmental organizations pushing against mining, energy, and timber interests who wanted the rule killed.
As energy development has spread across public lands in the last decade with serious impacts to fish and wildlife, sportsmen have come to realize these last remnants of intact roadless areas serve two critical functions: the core habitat for many of the nation’s strongest herds of big game animals and native wild fish populations, and the last chance to save the wilderness hunting and fishing experience that has long been a uniquely American tradition.
While the Supreme Court decision is a major victory, it is unlikely to bring opposition to roadless areas to a stop. Bills introduced in the house and Senate seek to write laws that would lift protections from not just roadless areas, but also designated wilderness.
Learn more about that, and what sportsmen can do, at www.oursportingheritage.com.