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Federal judge reinstates ban against road construction in national forests

[JURIST] A federal judge Wednesday reinstated [opinion, PDF] a 2001 ban on road construction in almost a third of US forests, ruling that the Bush administration did not conduct appropriate environmental research before suspending the rule and giving states the authority to manage their own forests. The original Roadless Area Conservation Rule [USDA backgrounder] was implemented by former US President Bill Clinton [official profile] in 2001, but was replaced [JURIST report] by the Bush administration in 2005 with a rule [text] that allowed governors to request that regulations on the management of roadless areas be developed to meet the needs of individual states. The reinstated Clinton-era rule prohibits mining, logging and road construction in the forests of 38 states and Puerto Rico, totaling more than 58 million acres of land.

US District Court Judge Elizabeth Laporte found in favor of 20 environmental groups and California, Washington, New Mexico, and Oregon, who sued the US Forest Service [official website]. While attorneys for Earthjustice [advocacy group], which represented the environmental groups in the case, praised the decision [press release], members of the timber industry and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens [official website] criticized the ruling, saying states should be able to manage their own forests by using citizen opinion polls. Deputy Undersecretary for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [official website], David Tenny [official profile], said the government is currently deciding whether to appeal the ruling. AP has more.

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