Thursday, July 1, 2010

Habitat Education Center v. U.S. Forest Service

Jul 29: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, Case No. 09-1672. Habitat Education Center appealed from a grant of summary judgment to the United States Forest Service in a lawsuit challenging the environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared by the Agency in connection with a forest management project in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. The project at issue is a timber sale known as the "Twentymile" project.
    In the district court, the plaintiffs made several challenges to the adequacy of the EIS. On appeal, they argue only that the EIS failed to describe the reasonably foreseeable cumulative effects of another proposed timber sale, known as the "Twin Ghost" project. The Appeals Court ruled, "We conclude that at the time the EIS was being prepared, the Twin Ghost project was too
nebulous to be discussed in any meaningful way, and thus affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Forest Service."
    The Appeals Court said further in its summary that, "As the district court noted, some notice of Twin Ghost in the Twentymile EIS would have improved the document. It seems that the better practice would be to err on the side of disclosure, both to aid the public in understanding the Forest Service's plans and to avoid costly litigation. But without some indication that meaningful
analysis could have accompanied this mention, it is not a substantial enough ground to invalidate the EIS and start over. The omission of Twin Ghost does not render the EIS any less of a hard look at the environmental consequences of the Twentymile project or cast any doubt on the conclusions drawn in that report."
    Access the complete opinion (click here).