The panel reversed the district court’s order, which invalidated a 2003 United States Department of Agriculture regulation temporarily exempting the Tongass National
Forest in Alaska from application of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
The panel held that in its 2003 Record of Decision, the Department of Agriculture articulated a number of legitimate grounds for temporarily exempting the Tongass Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule. The panel concluded that these grounds and the Department of Agriculture’s reasoning in reaching its decision were neither arbitrary nor capricious. The panel remanded to the district court to decide whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is required in the first instance.
Judge McKeown dissented, and would affirm the district court’s decision because the administrative record does not support the USDA’s decision in 2003 to discard its previous position and temporarily exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule.