State leaders sue feds to bring back “roadless rule”

Top officials from three Western states are suing the Bush administration in hopes of bringing back a rule banning road building on 58.5 million acres of national forests. The attorneys general of California and New Mexico, along with Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D), filed suit this week in federal court, contending that the administration illegally overturned the “roadless rule” — enacted by President Clinton in 2001 — in favor of its own supposedly state-friendly policy, which the plaintiffs say puts water quality and wildlife at risk. Under the Bush revision, states must file petitions with the feds indicating which national forest lands they want protected within their borders — a costly process involving mapping, assessing impacts on wildlife, and more — with no assurance that their preferences will be followed. If states don’t request protections, the lands are de facto left open to possible development.