Bush administration to enforce roadless rule despite legal woes

US Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth this week sought to clarify that his agency will enforce a controversial roadless rule that industry maintains would block sizeable oil and gas reserves from development. Bush administration officials however have made clear they may retool the guidelines this summer.


By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, June 8 --- US Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth this week sought to clarify that his agency will enforce a controversial roadless rule that industry maintains would block sizeable oil and gas reserves from development in western states.

Bosworth indicated that he alone would have the final decision on any exceptions to the rule. Bush administration officials, however, have made it clear they may retool the guidelines this summer to give states expanded authority to ignore the ban on a case-by-case basis (OGJ Online, May 11, 2001).

A May 10 court decision (Idaho v. Dombeck) temporarily enjoined the Forest Service from implementing the roadless area conservation rule, issued by then-President Bill Clinton Jan. 12. That decision is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"At this point, it appears that the roadless rule may be embroiled in legal controversy and process for a very long time, with an ultimate outcome that is far from certain," Bosworth said June 7 in a directive to Forest Service employees.

"Thus, it is necessary for the agency to act decisively, proactively, and with common sense to ensure that our efforts to protect roadless values will not be confined to legal proceedings in courtrooms scattered throughout the country. It is important that we move forward in a manner that is fully compliant with the law, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act. "

The Forest Service said that the chief's action provides immediate protections in designated roadless areas until long-term protections are in place under the forest planning process.

Bosworth also called on field managers to complete ongoing efforts to identify and properly map existing classified roads within each unit of the National Forest System.

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