Bush plan nixed, "Roadless Rule" reinstated


SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge on Wednesday reinstated the "Roadless Rule," a Clinton-era ban on road construction in nearly a third of national forests.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled that the Bush administration failed to conduct necessary environmental studies before making changes that allowed states to decide how to manage individual national forests.

The 2001 rule prohibits logging, mining and other development on 58.5 million acres in 38 states and Puerto Rico, but the Bush administration replaced it in May 2005 with a process that required governors to petition the federal government to protect national forests in their states.

Laporte sided with 20 environmental groups and four states — California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington — that sued the U.S. Forest Service over the changes.

"This is fantastic news for millions of Americans who have consistently told the Forest Service that they wanted these last wild areas of public land protected," said Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice, one of the plaintiffs.

Forest Service officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Laporte's ruling does not affect about 9.3 million acres of Alaska's Tongass National Forest, which is covered by a separate rule on road construction and other development.