NRDC Statement on Court Order Blocking Roadless Rule

Environmental group hopes to win on appeal

SAN FRANCISCO (May 10, 2001) - NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) will take the fight to protect the Roadless Area Conservation Rule to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The rule was blocked today when Judge Edward J. Lodge of the U.S. District Court in Idaho granted a motion for preliminary injunction by the state of Idaho, Boise Cascade Corporation and recreational groups. The groups had sued the federal government, arguing that the rule would cause irreparable harm.

For the past month, the roadless rule has been in a kind of legal limbo. On April 5, the district court stated its opinion that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail, but it declined to order an injunction pending a status report from the federal government. The opinion was widely cited by the rule's opponents, but not subject to appeal because the judge had not made a final ruling on the injunction request.

On May 4, the administration submitted its status report and announced that it was upholding the roadless rule. NRDC denounced that as a public relations ploy because the administration also said it would propose amendments next month that allow local forest managers to opt out on case-by-case basis, effectively defeating the rule. The court ordered the injunction anyway.

"The Bush administration never really tried to defend the rule," said Nathaniel Lawrence, a senior attorney with NRDC, which represents environmental intervenors in the case. "In fact, the administration has made it clear that it is using this judge's opinion as a rationale for reopening and potentially gutting a hugely popular conservation measure. We are very eager to get a higher court to review the case."

"NRDC and the other environmental intervenors are quite confident of prevailing on appeal," continued Lawrence. "The complaints against this rule -- that the public wasn't given maps of the areas or time to comment on the draft rule, and that saving these areas from roads and logging is somehow actually bad for them -- are transparently false. On appeal, we expect to be able to show that easily."

The roadless rule was the result of a three-year process, which included 600 public meetings and a record-breaking 1.6 million public comments, 95 percent of which supported the kind of strong protections eventually adopted.