Forest Roadless Area Proposal Blocked

A federal judge in Idaho recently blocked a U.S. Forest Service roadless area proposal less than a week after the Bush administration reluctantly agreed to go along with the rule drafted during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge concluded that the road building ban, if allowed to take effect, would cause "irreparable harm" to the timber industry and to state and local officials who are concerned about the need to properly manage forest grazing and logging activities and cull the forests to avert devastating forest fires.

Upon taking office, the Bush administration put the rule on hold as part of a larger review of Clinton administration regulations and executive orders.

Federal lands grazing interests have long opposed the road building ban because it could inhibit grazing development and restrict present grazing activities in millions of acres of the nation’s forested areas, says Jason Campbell, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Public Lands Council.

Ag Secretary To Review Forest Rules

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman recently announced plans to review and possibly alter the new forest planning and monitoring regulations. The planning rules effectively place ecosystem health above all other concerns, including multiple use. The current rules, issued in November by Clinton, limit use, access and other activities in national forests if forest managers believe those activities might permanently harm the agency's goals of ecological sustainability.

The Forest Service report concluded that the rules issued by Clinton were impossible to successfully implement. The review concluded that certain portions of the rule needed to be revised, including sustainability, viability, contribution of science, monitoring and the transition between ongoing forest planning and the new rules.

Federal Judge Rules In Favor Of Ranchers

A federal judge affirmed recently that grazing is the "status quo" on a Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment in western Wyoming. In holding off the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s (WOC) bid to remove grazing from the allotment, the ruling also preserved the due process rights guaranteed ranchers by the Taylor Grazing Act.

WOC filed a lawsuit late in May alleging the BLM was in violation of rangeland health regulations. It also filed motions to prohibit several ranching families from turning sheep and cattle herds onto the Smiths Fork allotment this year.

The wildlife group failed to convince judge Frank Brimmer that the BLM was in violation of grazing standards and that "irreparable harm" would occur if the livestock continued to graze the allotment.

According to testimony, ranchers would have been compelled to sell whole herds of cattle and sheep had the injunction been issued. Because WOC was attempting to alter the status quo – the status quo being grazing – it was required to prove that the elements of its argument weighed "overwhelmingly and compellingly" in WOC’s favor. In his decision, Judge Brimmer held that none of WOC’s arguments outweighed the arguments and interests of the permittees.