Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Supreme Court won't hear Alaska's challenge to Forest Service 'roadless rule'

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case brought by the state of Alaska over the so-called Forest Service “roadless rule,” ending a major long-running court battle over the state’s attempts to be exempt from the logging regulation. The state had asked the Supreme Court to consider reversing a lower-court decision that tossed Alaska’s “exemption” from a regulation barring road-building in protected forest areas. While the high court’s decision is a major setback for the state, a similar effort to overturn the rule is still brewing in another federal court. The roadless rule originally went into effect in 2001, at the end of the Clinton administration. It barred the Forest Service from building roads and cutting timber on 58.5 million acres nationwide. In Southeast Alaska, it set aside 9.3 million acres of the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest and nearly all of the 5.4 million-acre Chugach National Forest. The state challenged the rule in court and settled with the Forest Service in 2003, when the George W. Bush administration agreed to craft an exemption for the Tongass National Forest. But that exemption did not last. The Tlingit Native Village of Kake and several environmental groups fought the Alaska carve-out and won -- in District Court in 2011, and then at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The courts ruled that while new administrations often have the legal right to make policy changes, the Bush administration didn’t provide sufficient factual reasoning for coming to a different conclusion on Alaska forest protections. Alaska assistant attorney general Cori Mills said Monday that though the Supreme Court denied the state’s petition, "this is not the end of our challenge of the roadless rule and its application to Alaska.”...more

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