BOISE – A national angling group and the state’s biggest conservation organization are throwing their support behind the federal rule for managing millions of acres of Idaho’s roadless backcountry.
Trout Unlimited and the Idaho Conservation League joined forces Friday to file a friend-of-the-court brief in a federal lawsuit seeking to block the Idaho roadless rule.
The federal rule was finalized in 2008 after years of public meetings and legal wrangling over how best to manage 9.3 million acres of federal backcountry across the state. The rule protects a large swath of those roadless acres but also allows others uses, including logging in North Idaho and mining development in southeast Idaho’s phosphate patch.
Opposition to the rule and the way it was written prompted a coalition of national and regional environmental groups to file a lawsuit last year in federal court.
Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, said his group wanted to show its backing for a policy developed by a variety of Idaho groups and interests that helps deal with the bigger challenge of managing roadless areas nationwide.
“We feel it strikes a fair balance,” Johnson said. “The rule recognizes the importance of these areas for clean water, wildlife and recreation and also recognizes the needs of local communities.”
The state of Idaho, Kootenai Tribes of Idaho and the Idaho Association of Counties have also joined the lawsuit as interveners in defense of the Idaho rule.
The rule is the culmination of a policy debate ignited when the Clinton administration issued a rule in 2001 that banned road-building and logging on more than 58 million acres of remote national forest lands, with most of those acres in Western states.
That rule was hailed by environmental groups like the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club, and denounced by industry groups. The Bush administration repealed the rule in 2005, clearing the way for states to petition the government with their own strategy for managing federal roadless areas within their borders.
Idaho was the first to present a plan, crafted by former Gov. Jim Risch after more than a dozen community meetings in cities and towns across the state.
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