That was three presidential terms ago, back when Bill Clinton was still in the White House. Since then the law has been the courtroom target of mining and drilling companies, ranchers and a list of Western states, including Utah and led by Wyoming, a state that lives off mining and drilling.
But the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to the litigation this week when it rejected their argument that the rule allowed the U.S. Forest Service to essentially declare certain areas wilderness, with that designation's limits on development. Only Congress has the authority to set aside federal lands as wilderness.
Instead, the high court let stand the ruling of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Roadless Rule.
It is a landmark decision that should mean 50 million acres of roadless areas in national forests will remain unspoiled for future generations of Americans.
And, contrary to what its opponents have argued, the rule allows federal agencies to manage the forests to reduce the threats of wildfires and disease. Such management will be conducted to maintain the natural beauty of the roadless forests.
It is important for Americans that these areas be protected from mining, logging, drilling and grazing. There are intrinsic benefits from places of solitude and quiet that have value beyond the short-term economic gains to be had from using up these irreplaceable resources.
Without limits on what humans can take from the land, the future for our grandchildren would be bleak. Forests are more than simply trees. They provide habitat for wildlife, and watersheds to help slake the thirst of humans. Trees are renewable, but a forest can be replaced only over centuries, if ever.
America has given permission for industry to exploit our natural resources on the vast majority of public and private lands. Thanks to this court decision, we will be able to keep these forests for ourselves.