TWIN FALLS • A plan governing the development and preservation of 9.3 million acres of roadless federal public land in Idaho has survived another court challenge.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Idaho’s “roadless rule” on Monday, declaring in a brief written decision that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service did not violate any environmental laws when forming the plan.
“The inclusive, thorough, and transparent process resulting in the challenged rule conformed to the demands of the law and is free of legal error,” the panel wrote.
Idaho’s rule is one of two in the nation created separately from the 2001 national roadless rule issued by the Clinton administration. Then-Gov. Jim Risch — serving a short stint in the post after his predecessor, Dirk Kempthorne,
was named U.S. interior secretary — partnered in 2006 with environmental groups, recreationists, county officials and other interests to create a compromise roadless rule. Rather than follow the Clinton blueprint, which faced its own court challenge, Risch then submitted the rule under the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal agencies can propose regulations.
The final version split environmentalists, with organizations like the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited defending the rule and others such as the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society challenging it in court. Monday’s ruling was an appeal of a 2011 decision upholding the rule by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.
On Monday, Risch — now a U.S. senator — hailed the appellate court’s decision.
“When I was Idaho’s governor, I clearly saw the need for strong leadership to bring together the different groups to come up with a plan for Idaho,” Risch said in a press release. “The federally-mandated, one-size-fits-all approach had not worked. But in our collaborative effort, we were successful in crafting a plan written by Idahoans, for Idahoans.”
The other state with its own roadless rule is Colorado. Its plan went into effect last July.