SAN FRANCISCO -- A Clinton-era rule blocking development on about 58 million acres of federal forest cleared a major legal hurdle Thursday.
In a 2-1 decision, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ordered a federal judge in Idaho to lift his injunction blocking the so-called "Roadless Rule," which was supposed to take effect May 2001.
The proposal will virtually ban road building or other development in roadless parcels of 5,000 acres or more, some 2 percent of the nation's land mass.
U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge put the rule on hold in response to a lawsuit by Idaho, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and logging interests. The Bush administration declined to appeal, but environmental groups intervened and won.
The appeals court said the tribe, the logging industry and snowmobile groups were not irreparably harmed by the rules. The Forest Service said it was too early to say whether the Bush administration will activate the plan.
The court decision came a day after the White House proposed speeding up environmental reviews for forest thinning to reduce the threat of wildfires. Bush officials also have moved to limit the ability of environmental groups to add species to the endangered list.
Chris West, vice president of timber-industry group American Forest Resource Council, said Clinton's administration never clarified which areas would be affected.