As with wetlands, a goal of the Bush Administration has been to open up all federally held lands and resources to commercial exploitation, no matter how short term, no matter now destructive. A case in point is the Roadless Rule.
- January 12, 2001, in the last days of Bill Clinton’s Presidency, the Roadless Rule is published in the Federal Register. It prohibits roadbuilding in 58.5 million acres of roadless wilderness. This accounts for about 1/3 of the nation’s forests.
- February 5, 2001, Agriculture Secretary Anne Veneman suspends the Roadless Rule.
- December 12, 2002, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the Roadless Rule overturning an Idaho challenge to it.
- December 23, 2002, the Bush Administration announces plans to give governors the right to seek exemptions to the Roadless Rule.
- June 9, 2003, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Mark Rey repeats the Administration’s intention to change the Roadless Rule to grant governors waivers to it.
- December 23, 2002, the 17 million acres (about 4% of which is old growth) of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the planet’s largest temperate rainforest, is exempted from the Roadless Rule.
- July 12, 2004, Ann Veneman proposes a new rule which would give governors an 18 month window in which to petition the US Forest Service to open up "roadless" areas to roadbuilding to facilitate logging and drilling for gas and oil.
- May 13, 2005, Bush issues the new rule allowing state petitions.
- August 5, 2005, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocks the Tongass National Forest management plan and bars roadbuilding pending revision of it.
- August 28, 2005, several states and environmental groups sue and the case is assigned to federal District Judge for Northern California Elizabeth Laporte
- September 20, 2006, Judge Laporte reinstates the Roadless Rule nationwide with the exception of the Tongass National Forest.
- February 6, 2007, Judge Laporte enjoins roadbuilding in conjunction with drilling permits and leases issued since May 2005.
- April 9, 2007, the Forest Service with the timber industry appeal Judge Laporte’s decision to the 9th Circuit.
After 6 years, the Administration has neither given up on nor cut back on its plans. It goes to show how singleminded and persistent the Bush Administration is. The Roadless Rule is popular and supported by most Americans. We would like to see some of our national patrimony preserved both for ourselves and future generations. This has not caused the Administration to hesitate for a second in its attempts to overturn it. Only the efforts of states and environmental groups in the courts have kept them so far from succeeding.