Court denies protection for Idaho’s wild backcountry

Jan 31, 2011

BOISE - Conservationists today expressed disappointment in a federal district court decision this weekend upholding a federal rule that eliminates protection for 400,000 acres of Idaho’s wild backcountry and exposes more than 5 million acres in the state to greater threat of development. The ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho on the 2008 Idaho Roadless Rule allows the State of Idaho to institute its own version of a national policy that had protected some 58.5 million acres across the country when it was adopted in 2001.

“In the long run this means less clean water and less fish and wildlife in Idaho,” said Marv Hoyt, Idaho director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “The Idaho Roadless Rule traded away protections for areas facing real, imminent threats such as the Sage Creek and Huckleberry Basin roadless areas, where new, polluting, open-pit phosphate mines are planned.”

The Wilderness Society echoed that sentiment.

“The Idaho Rule does away with protections guaranteed to roadless areas in all other states in the lower 48,” said Craig Gehrke, Idaho regional director of The Wilderness Society.  “It’s a real shame that some of the most spectacular backcountry in America will be denied the level of protection enjoyed by other states.”

The court decision is also bad news for bears and caribou.

“The Idaho rule allows logging and roadbuilding in core grizzly and caribou habitat, further threatening the survival of these endangered species,” said Mike Petersen, executive director of The Lands Council.  “The wild Selkirk Mountains are the only place in the lower 48 states that have caribou and this decision puts them at greater risk.”

The specifics of the case centered around a challenge by conservationists that the federal government violated provisions of the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws and regulations in exempting the State of Idaho from the national roadless rule. The district court ruled that the government provided sufficient assurances of its intent to abide by the laws.

The conservations were represented in the case by Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting places, natural resources and wildlife.

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Get an assessment of the 10-year impact of the roadless rule here.

This is a joint release by The Wilderness Society, Greater Yellowstone Coalition and The Lands Council.

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