Anglers, hunters disappointed in latest ruling

Roadless matter has become more about politics, less about the issue

CHEYENNE, Wyo.—Judge Clarence Brimmer’s Aug. 12 decision to once again suspend the protection of the country’s roadless lands is yet another volley in an unfortunate game of legal ping pong involving the management of the last, best places to hunt and fish in the West, said Dave Glenn, backcountry director for Trout Unlimited’s Public Lands Initiative.

“It’s time for lawyers and judges to quit stomping on the very plain desires of western hunters and anglers, as well as the elected leaders of a majority of Western states, to protect the places vital to our sporting heritage,” Glenn said of Brimmer’s decision. The ruling once again suspends the 2001 Roadless Rule and leaves the best fish and game habitat remaining on public land in the West unprotected from any number of threats. “This issue is simple for sportsmen and women—roadless lands offer the best of what’s left when it comes to fish and game habitat in the country, and that translates into the best hunting and fishing.”

This is the second time Brimmer has declared the 2001 Roadless Rule defunct—his previous ruling was thrown out in the fall of the 2006 by Judge Elizabeth LaPorte, who reinstated the 2001 Rule after declaring the 2005 Roadless Rule put in place by President Bush violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“The arguments surrounding this issue have drifted far away from the very roots of the matter,” said Glenn, who, in addition to his work with TU, is an accomplished backcountry hunter and fisherman from Lander, Wyo. “It used to be, when you thought of the roadless lands here in the West, you thought of wild country and unspoiled places. Now, you think about judges and lawyers and rules, and that’s a real shame. The bottom line, though, is these places remain intact—they haven’t been trashed yet. Without protection—protection the governors in most of the Western states have asked for—we could lose these places, which are collectively one the greatest treasures the American people can claim.”

In all, there are some 58 million acres of inventoried roadless land in the nation, the bulk of which lies in the West. Governors and other elected leaders in the states of California, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana and Arizona all declared their desire to protect their state’s roadless lands just as the 2001 Rule would do. The governors of Idaho and Colorado pushed forward under the Administrative Procedures Act to draft state-specific roadless land protection rules.

“This is what happens when politicians and judges pretend to be experts in fish and wildlife,” said Trout Unlimited’s Dave Petersen, who served on a committee that helped draft the foundation of Colorado’s pending roadless management plan. “Hunters and anglers across Colorado and the West want people to listen to what the real experts on fish and wildlife habitat have recommended, and that’s to leave roadless lands intact.”

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, boasting over 150,000 members from coast to coast. TU’s mission is to Protect, Reconnect, Restore and Sustain trout and salmon habitat in the United States.