State of Wyoming and Colorado Mining Association Fight Roadless Rule

Published July 5, 2012

The State of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the federal government’s Roadless Area Conservation Rule, also known as the Roadless Rule. 

Power Reserved for Congress

The petitioners argue the U.S. Forest Service exceeded its authority in enacting the Roadless Rule by exercising power reserved solely for Congress.

In announcing the petition, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) said he hoped the Court would reinstate a decision by U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer striking down the Roadless Rule. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently reversed Brimmer’s decision.

Bans Even Beneficial Uses

The Roadless Rule, enacted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the waning days of the Clinton administration, bans road building or maintenance on more than 58 million acres of public land, mostly in the West. The ban affects more than 3 million acres in Wyoming, essentially rendering the land protected wilderness. 

According to the Colorado Mining Association (CMA), the rule not only impedes mineral development but also forecloses other uses such as timber harvests and forest health protection measures. The CMA petition notes roadless restrictions also create increased risk of environmentally destructive insect infestations and forest fires.

“The Roadless Rule will cause great harm to the mining industry and local communities that rely on mining,” CMA President Stuart Sanderson explained in a press statement. “If allowed to stand, the Roadless Rule will effectively prevent future mining on Roadless lands, leading to a decrease in mineral and coal production, job losses, and sharp decreases on taxes and revenues from the coal mining industry that are critical to local governments and public school systems.”

Paul Seby, legal counsel to the CMA, argued in the petition, “the 1964 Wilderness Act says Congress alone designates wilderness areas” and the rule enacted by the Clinton Agriculture Department designates the affected lands as de facto wilderness, outside the scope of the Wilderness Act.

“This [Rule] has real impacts for multiple use in Wyoming, and [it] was developed without meaningful input from any state, county, or town,” Governor Mead noted in announcing the Wyoming appeal. “This rule affects our economy and our ability to fight the bark beetle epidemic.” 

Brian Fojtik ([email protected]) is president of Brownstone Communications.