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Real Estate Law

Mountain States Legal Foundation: Westerners: Supreme Court Must Review Clinton Road Rule

June 18, 2012 - DENVER, CO.  A western, nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversing a Wyoming federal district court's ruling that President Clinton's lame duck issuance of a rule closing 60 million acres of "roadless" national forest lands "was a thinly veiled attempt to designate 'wilderness areas' in violation of the...Wilderness Act."  For itself and other western groups, Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) asked the court to grant a petition filed by the State of Wyoming.  MSLF had urged the panel to uphold the district court's holding that Clinton violated both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Wilderness Act.  MSLF argued that the Wilderness Act of 1964 ended the ability of the U.S. Forest Service to treat lands as "wilderness" and provided that only Congress may designate wilderness.  MSLF represents the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, American Sheep Industry Association, Intermountain Forest Association, and Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation.

"This is a huge issue for westerners because they are the most directly affected by Clinton's illegal act," said William Perry Pendley, MSLF president.

In 2001, the Forest Service enacted the Roadless Rule, which barred road construction and reconstruction and timber harvesting on nearly 60 million acres of national forests.  In March 2001, President Bush issued a moratorium on all new regulations that had not yet been implemented.  In May 2001, the Idaho federal district court enjoined implementation of the Roadless Rule, and, in July 2003, the Wyoming federal district court issued a nationwide permanent injunction against the Rule.  The Forest Service declined to appeal either ruling.  In May 2005, one day after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit heard oral argument on an appeal by environmental groups, the Forest Service adopted the State Petition Rule, which reverted to the prior regime of forest-by-forest plans.  The Forest Service then asked the Tenth Circuit to vacate the Wyoming decision.

On November 29, 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California set aside the State Petition Rule and reinstated the 2001 Roadless Rule.  Wyoming was not permitted to reinstitute its lawsuit despite its claim that the California ruling caused it injury.  Therefore, on January 12, 2007, Wyoming filed a second suit to declare the Roadless Rule unlawful.  A host of environmental groups intervened in the case in defense of the Clinton Roadless Rule.  In 2001, Mountain States Legal Foundation had challenged the Clinton rule on behalf of Communities for a Great Northwest.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

State of Wyoming v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nos. 08-8061, 09-8075 (10th Cir.) [enhanced version available to subscribers]


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