Tuesday, July 31, 2012

League of Wilderness Defenders v. U.S. Forest Service

Jul 30: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 11-35451. Appealed from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. The Appeals Court explains that this case involves an Experimental Forest Thinning, Fuels Reduction, and Research Project (the Project) in the Deschutes National Forest in the eastern Cascades of central Oregon. The Project allows logging and controlled burning on roughly 2,500 acres of the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest. The purpose of the Project is two-fold: to reduce the risk of wildfire and beetle infestation, and to conduct research on ponderosa pine forest management.
    The League of Wilderness Defenders–Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project (the League) filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service (the Service) and Service officials, alleging that the Agency's environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Project fails to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA"). The district court granted summary judgment to the Service, relying in part on the fact that the Project involves research in an experimental forest. The Appeals court affirmed.
    The Service manages its experimental forests under the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act of 1978 (Research Act). The Research Act recognizes that the Federal government "has an important and substantial role in ensuring the continued health, productivity, and sustainability of the forests and rangeland of the United States." It gives the
Secretary of Agriculture broad authority to designate experimental forests and to conduct any research within them that he "deems necessary to obtain, analyze, develop, demonstrate, and disseminate scientific information about protecting, managing, and utilizing forest . . . resources."
    In affirming the district court ruling, the Appeals Court concluded, "The Service proposes a forest management research project in an experimental forest specifically set aside for such study. The EIS considers in detail a reasonable range of alternatives that would fulfill both of the Project's goals by reducing the risk of wildfire and beetle infestation, and by addressing six specified research objectives. The EIS is adequately supported by scientific data and takes a hard look at the significant impacts of the Project."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Land, #CA9]
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