Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lands Council v. Martin (U.S. Forest Service)

Jun 25: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 07-35804. As explained by the Appeals Court, a forest fire burned thousands of acres of national forest in southeastern Washington. The U.S. Forest Service initiated a salvage logging operation, and the Appeals Court was called upon to determine whether the Forest Service took the requisite “hard look” under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), and whether it complied with the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA).

Plaintiffs, The Lands Council, Oregon Wild, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, and Sierra Club, which are environmental organizations, appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Defendants Forest Service and the Forest Supervisor of the Umatilla National Forest. American Forest Resource Council, Boise Building Solutions Manufacturing, L.L.C., and Dodge Logging, Inc., which are a forestry advocacy organization and logging companies, joined Defendants as intervenors.

The Appeals Court ruled that the Forest Service failed to include an adequate discussion of the effects of proposed logging on two significant roadless areas; however, it otherwise affirmed the decision of the district court in favor of the Forest Service. In summary, the Appeals Court concluded in part that, ". . . the Forest Service was required to discuss the effects of the proposed logging on the roadless character of both roadless areas. Smith [Smith v. United States Forest Service, 33 F.3d 1072 (9th Cir. 1994)] held that the size of an uninventoried roadless area must be considered in combination with the size of any contiguous inventoried roadless area. The size of Upper Cummins Creek combined with the size of contiguous Willow Springs is more than 5,000 acres. We make clear today that the rule in Smith applies to roadless areas that are either greater than 5,000 acres or of a “sufficient size” within the meaning of 16 U.S.C. § 1131(c). The West Tucannon roadless area falls within the scope of that rule. . ."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).