A federal court in Alaska has reinstated EPA’s Roadless Rule on the 17-million acre Tongass National Forest. Organized Village of Kake v. USDA, No. 09-23 (D. Ak. 5/24/11). The decision concludes a lengthy case in which conservation groups argued that a Forest Service decision to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule should be vacated. 68 Fed. Reg. 75,136 (12/30/03). The Roadless Rule banned most logging and road building across more than 58 million acres of forest land in the United States. 66 Fed. Reg. 3,244 (6/12/01).
The Forest Service justified the exemption on economic grounds and speculation that the Roadless Rule would cause social and economic hardships to communities in southwest Alaska by restricting development. According to the court, however, the Forest Service’s reasoning for exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule was “implausible, contrary to evidence in the record” and at odds with a Ninth Circuit decision.