At a Dead End: The Need for Congressional Direction in the Roadless Area Management Debate

Voicu, Monica
May 2010
Ecology Law Quarterly;2010, Vol. 37 Issue 2, p487
Academic Journal
In California v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Ninth Circuit held that the Bush administration improperly promulgated the 2005 State Petitions Rule in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and reinstated the Clinton administration's 2001 Roadless Rule. The August 2009 ruling is only the latest decision in a nearly decade-long litigation battle over the fate of roadless areas. This battle began shortly after the Clinton administration promulgated the Roadless Rule, which sought to protect administratively 58.5 million acres of roadless lands from development. These roadless lands were initially identified as a result of the 1964 Wilderness Act, which directed the Forest Service to study such areas for potential inclusion into the wilderness system. This Note goes back to the root of the roadless area debate-the Wilderness Act itself-for insight into the issues surrounding roadless-area management. Roadless areas share many of the characteristics of wilderness, and often serve as precursors to wilderness designation. The value of roadless areas and their connection to wilderness have animated much of the modern struggle over roadless area management, including the Forest Service's roadless area reviews, the administrative rules promulgated by the Clinton and Bush administrations, and the ensuing litigation. California v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, the most recent decision concerning the Roadless Rule, signals a need for change. This Note argues that managing roadless areas through administrative rulemaking is not viable because it lacks the permanence necessary for lasting resource conservation. Additionally, it might conflict with the Wilderness Act and appears to be creating "de facto wilderness." In keeping with the Wilderness Act, Congress should provide more legislative guidance. It could codify the Roadless Rule into law, amend the Wilderness Act to provide for different levels of protection, or amend the National Forest Management Act to require the Forest Service to take roadless values into account.


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