Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Gov. Butch Otter welcomed the Idaho District Court's ruling on the Idaho Roadless Rule on Monday, as conservationists expressed disappointment.
Risch called the decision a victory for the rule's collaborative process.
"Idaho has the only roadless rule in the nation developed by a state based on input from the full spectrum of wildland users," Risch said in a press release.
Risch, a former Idaho governor, helped develop the rule in 2006 after the Bush administration allowed states to petition the Forest Service for management of roadless areas. Idaho has 9.3 million acres of roadless national forest land, the largest amount in the lower 48 states.
The rule was challenged in October by The Wilderness Society, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and California-based Earthjustice, conservation groups whose representatives argued that the rule was not protective enough.
Though Idaho's plan increased protection in some areas, it opened up 400,000 acres of previously designated roadless area to phosphate mining and temporary road building.
"The Idaho Roadless Rule traded away protections for areas facing real, imminent threats ... where new, polluting, open-pit phosphate mines are planned," said Marv Hoyt, spokesman for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. "In the long run, this means less clean water and less fish and wildlife in Idaho."
Otter stated in a press release that he applauded the court for its recognition of the importance of local government.
"[The] decision rightfully acknowledges the value of local input in the federal decision-making process," he said. "I believe this decision closes a chapter on a 40-year controversy."
Katherine Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Road to rule
The Idaho Roadless Rule was developed in 2006 in response to Bush administration actions. Prior to the development of the rule, Idaho roadless areas were protected by a nationwide 2001 Clinton-era policy. The state of Idaho petitioned the Forest Service for management of its 9.3 million roadless acres in 2005. Idaho's plan was developed after public meetings and comment. It was challenged by conservationists and heard by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in October. Winmill ruled on Monday that Idaho has the right to develop its own management plan under the federal roadless rule.