Court exempts Alaska forest from roadless rule

JUNEAU, Alaska — A divided federal appeals court panel has sided with the state of Alaska in reversing a decision that reinstated the roadless rule in the Tongass National Forest.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision Wednesday, found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had articulated “a number of legitimate grounds” in a 2003 decision to temporarily exempt the Tongass from the roadless rule.

A lower court judge, in 2011, had found the decision to be arbitrary and capricious.

The appeals court panel sent the matter back to the District Court to determine whether additional environmental review is required. Judge M. Margaret McKeown dissented, saying the justification for the shift was missing.

Tongass, in southeast Alaska, is the nation’s largest national forest.

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