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HOME > Issues > Lands
Idaho Roadless Areas: Wildlands in peril

Overview: The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule provides protection for 58 million acres of roadless lands across the country, including all those on Idaho's Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The 2001 Rule specifically prohibited new roads for phosphate mining and exploration on the forest.

While the U.S. Forest Service continues its process of developing a new national planning rule to provide guidance for how our nation's precious resources are managed into the 21st century, a federal court's ruling on Oct. 21, 2011, ensures that roadless areas will remain just that — roadless.

Unfortunately, this decision does not include Idaho, which developed its own statewide Roadless Rule, which sacrifices a corner of Greater Yellowstone at the altar of the phosphate mining industry. The state's plan opens up vast tracts of southeast Idaho to mining at the expense of clean lands and waters, and healthy wildlife. In the waning days of the Bush Administration, the Forest Service approved Idaho’s plan for managing more than 9 million acres of roadless forests across the state.

Not surprisingly, the Idaho rule gives less protection to 5.3 million acres of roadless forests than the 2001 national rule. Worse yet, it removed all protections from more than 400,000 acres of roadless forests, including approximately 300,000 acres within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Most egregious, it allows phosphate mining to occur within roadless areas. Protection of national forest roadless areas, and the wildlife and clean water that we enjoy because of them, has been a centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s conservation mission for decades.

Greater Yellowstone Coalition and our conservation partners filed a lawsuit challenging the Idaho Rule. On Jan. 7, 2013, the U.S. District Court for Idaho rejected our case and upheld Idaho's rule.

Yellowstone National Park is shielded by an umbrella of national forest land that includes both congressionally designated wilderness areas and other equally wild areas that enjoy no congressional protection but have been identified as inventoried roadless areas. Within the Caribou-Targhee National Forest there are more than 1.5 million acres of pristine roadless lands. Protection of all this roadless land is crucial for the perpetuation of Greater Yellowstone’s populations of spectacular wildlife, including elk, mule deer, moose and such rare species as grizzly bears, lynx, wolves, wolverines, and Yellowstone and Bonneville cutthroat trout.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Clinton administration's 2001 Roadless Rule, which was rejected in short order by President Bush. The rule has been in the courts for the 10 years since, with two rulings in favor of the Roadless Rule sandwiched around an adverse ruling by a Wyoming court.

“The public forests we’ve fought so hard to protect are now safe,” Tim Preso, an Earthjustice attorney representing the conservation groups, told The Associated Press.

The ruling impacts 58 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands — including some of the six national forests in Greater Yellowstone.

Project Goals: To reverse the Idaho Roadless Rule and return to the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule — ultimately protecting 300,000 acres of southeast Idaho roadless lands from phosphate mining, logging, road building and other associated development.

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OVERVIEW
  • The Idaho Roadless Rule removes protections for 300,000 acres of roadless areas in southeast Idaho.
  • Idaho has more than 9 million acres of of roadless areas, including 1.5 million acres on southeast Idaho's Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
  • Grizzly bears, lynx, wolves, wolverines, and Yellowstone and Bonneville cutthroat trout are among the rare wildlife that call southeast Idaho home.