Parties Agree to Proposed Judgment in Roadless Rule Lawsuit; Clarifies Rule Doesn’t Stop Hydro Development
May 12, 2011
The proposed judgment is the result of an agreement between the United States Forest Service and the plaintiffs in the case, including the Organized Village of Kake and The Boat Company as well as Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and other environmental organizations. The judgment goes to Judge Sedwick for approval.
“These are important projects for our communities. We’re dedicated to seeing salmon-safe hydro and intertie projects happen,” said Lindsey Ketchel, Executive Director Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC). “This proposed judgment outlines a path forward for these community projects, and shows that the Forest Service and the plaintiff groups can work together toward policies are responsive to community needs.”
The Roadless Rule is a Clinton-era regulation that was designed to address the high cost of new logging roads, which require costly taxpayer subsidies and result in the fragmentation of critical fish and wildlife habitat. An “exemption” preventing the Roadless Rule’s application to the Tongass National Forest was adopted by the Bush administration in 2003, but was ruled “arbitrary and capricious” and invalidated by a federal judge in March of this year.
“The court evaluated concerns related to impacts to Tongass communities resulting from application of the Roadless Rule and ruled that such concerns were unsupported by the evidence and ‘speculative at best’,” said Buck Lindekugel, SEACC Grassroots Attorney. “The proposed judgment released today [Wednesday] reiterates and clarifies that conclusion.”
The proposed judgment specifically recognizes that hydropower development is managed under the Federal Power Act, which includes provisions that provide flexibility to the Forest Service to balance forest values, such as roadless characteristics, with the importance of new hydro projects to communities.
“Community hydro and intertie projects have widespread support in the region for good reason. Hydropower provides clean, affordable energy to communities that are struggling,” said Dan Lesh, SEACC Energy Coordinator. “We’re confident that the Forest Service supports these projects, and has the flexibility it needs to help them happen and protect the public’s interest. The Roadless Rule will not put a halt to these critical projects.”
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