Major Public Lands Case Filed Challenging Forest Service’s Exclusion of Roadless Protections Near Ski Resorts

Last week, on behalf of the nonprofit conservation organization The Ark Initiative and several individuals, we filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Forest Service’s recent attempts to exclude public lands in Colorado from roadless protections that those lands have long been afforded by the agency.  In stark contrast with the Forest Service’s longstanding roadless management regime that implements the agency’s duties under the Wilderness Act and other laws, in the Forest Service’s 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule and subsequent site-specific decisions implementing the regulation the agency has purported to rely on economic, commercial, and social factors for excluding long-recognized roadless areas from the nation’s roadless inventory rather than basing such determinations on the factual condition of the parcel under review (i.e., whether the parcel is unroaded and otherwise consists of specified roadless qualities enumerated in the agency’s land management handbook).  These public lands – which are highly desired by the ski resort industry for future recreational development that is inconsistent with roadless management values and standards – were all protected as part of the Forest Service’s roadless inventory prior to the 2012 rule.  The plaintiffs have requested that the court vacate both the regulation’s arbitrary and capricious exclusion of these public lands from the roadless inventory as well as the site-specific decisions relying on and implementing the rule’s unlawful roadless inventory exclusion.  The complaint can be found here.