September 4, 2008

Idaho's 'roadless rule' clears another hurdle

Idaho Statesman

State and federal officials on Monday released the final environmental impact statement for the Forest Service's "roadless rule," which will protect 8.9 million acres of federal lands from most road building and development.

The proposal designates 250 roadless areas and establishes five management themes that essentially keep roadless areas intact but allow limited logging, mining and temporary roads to reduce fire danger.

The new roadless management plan, which evolved out of a series of lawsuits and collaborative agreements from federal, state and county agencies and interest groups, could become final in 30 days, depending on whether any lawsuits arise.

"The Idaho roadless rule represents the first time a state and its citizens had a direct voice in creating a plan for resolving an issue of national importance," Lt. Gov. Jim Risch said.

The roadless rule originated from a Clinton administration decision to curtail logging and road building on roadless lands.

Idaho was the first state to sue to block that rule and is now the first state to develop its own plan that has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.