Mon., November 28, 2011 12:00am (EST)

Ruling Affects 63,000 Georgia Acres
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 2 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
All-terrain vehicles are prohibited from "wilderness areas," which only Congress can designated.  Lawyers argued that so-called "roadless areas" were a backdoor attempt to create "wilderness areas" without Congressional approval.  A federal court has disagreed.  (photo Eron Iler)
All-terrain vehicles are prohibited from "wilderness areas," which only Congress can designated. Lawyers argued that so-called "roadless areas" were a backdoor attempt to create "wilderness areas" without Congressional approval. A federal court has disagreed. (photo Eron Iler)
A federal court ruling is expected to lead to new protections for Georgia's national forests.

Members of Congress still could challenge the Clinton-era "roadless rule."

The timber industry, off-road vehicle users and other commercial interests oppose the rule because it bars new road building on federal land.

North Georgia has more than a dozen roadless areas throughout the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Sarah Francisco of the Southern Environmental Law Center hailed a judge's decision upholding the rule.

"There are about 63,000 acres of roadless areas in Georgia," Francisco says. "And these are just outstanding areas for recreation, for wildlife habitat and for clean water."

Francisco says, during a recent public comment period, 96% of the comments from Georgia supported the rule, which has been much-litigated since it was first enacted in the closing days of the Clinton administration.

"It's status has been uncertain for the past decade and now it's been clearly upheld," Francisco says. "The Obama administration and the National Forest Service can embrace and enforce the rule."

Energy lobbyists and some Congressional Republicans call the rule a "job-killer" and are backing a measure to overturn it.

WEB EXTRA: For a map of roadless areas in Georgia, go to the website http://roadlessland.org/map.php?state=GA