By Deborah Courson Smith Big Sky Connection

BILLINGS – A push by the state of Wyoming to have the federal roadless rule overturned has ended at the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court refused to take the case, which contended that prohibiting road building in National Forest backcountry was creating wilderness and that is the job of Congress.

Joel Webster, the director of the Center for Western Lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, says the decision ends a long process.

“In terms of the courts, this is the end of it. And so the legal uncertainty surrounding the national rule is over.”

The ruling affects more than 6 million acres in Montana. The state of Wyoming joined the Colorado Mining Association in pushing the case to the Supreme Court, citing additional concerns that limits on development hurt the timber, mining and drilling industries.

Webster says it must be remembered that the 2001 rule was based on public input, which was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping these non-roaded areas as is. “Hunters and anglers head to the fields this fall, you know,” he said. “They can enjoy these areas and have some confidence they’re going to be the same way next year.”

The TRCP worked to maintain support for the rule over the last 10 years.