The long squabble over the Roadless Rule is not dead, but it’s wounded . . .
The lack of a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court means Alaska must follow the U.S. Forest Service Roadless Rule in its timber harvest, nearly ending 16 years of legal challenges to management of undeveloped forest.
The high court opted not to hear the Alaska state government’s appeal of a U.S. 9th Circuit Court decision upholding the 2001 Roadless Rule. While the decision applies only to Alaska’s attempts to manage federal timberland, the rule affects all Forest Service land in the United States. Montana has the third-largest inventoried roadless area in the nation, after Alaska and Idaho.
“The Roadless Rule was developed because of concern that if you didn’t look at these lands from a national perspective, you might gradually lose the ecological services these areas provide,” said Brian Riggers of the Forest Service’s Region 1 headquarters in Missoula. “Projects developed at a local level may not identify the importance of big pieces of land without looking at it from a national perspective for things like watershed quality, wildlife habitat or ecosystem health. Also, we had a road maintenance backlog, and no money to maintain the roads we had.”