The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away an appeal challenging a federal rule that bars development on 50 million acres of roadless areas in national forests.
The justices said Monday they will leave in place a federal appeals court decision that upheld the so-called roadless rule that took effect late in the presidency of Bill Clinton.
The state of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association said closing so much forestland to development has had serious consequences for residents of Western states and the logging, mining and drilling industries.
Supporters of the rule said the nation’s forests need protection from development to preserve pristine areas that provide wildlife and natural resource habitat for hunting, fishing and recreation.
The challenge centered on the contention that the U.S. Forest Service essentially declared forests to be wilderness areas, a power that rests with Congress under the 1964 Wilderness Act.
The U.S. Forest Service currently manages more than 190 million acres of land used for multiple purposes that must comply with strict rules on land use changes spelled out in the federal Wilderness Act and National Environmental Policy Act.
The roadless rule enacted under Clinton in 2001 had been upheld earlier by both the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit in separate cases.
The 10th Circuit overturned Cheyenne, Wyoming-based U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer who had decided the rule created a de facto wilderness area.