For Immediate Release, July 26, 2007
||Marc Fink, Center for Biological Diversity, (218) 525-3884
Pete Frost, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 543-0018
Conservationists Seek to Block Forest Service’s Resurrection of
SAN FRANCISCO— A coalition of 14 conservation groups filed suit today in federal court to block the U.S. Forest Service from implementing rules a federal court previously found had been adopted illegally. The agency’s actions follow a recent federal court decision that the agency also illegally adopted new regulations in 2005.
At stake is the protection, throughout America’s national forest system, of wildlife and natural resources. Regulations prepared by the Forest Service in 1982, pursuant to the National Forest Management Act, provided substantive, mandatory protection for forest resources on national forests such as fish, wildlife, and water quality. With the 2000 and 2005 revisions of these rules, however, the Forest Service has attempted to substantially weaken or eliminate such protection.
“The Forest Service keeps digging itself further into a hole,” said Marc Fink, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, a plaintiff in the suit. “If the agency wants to plan and implement projects on national forests, it must do so legally, under the 1982 regulations. While it may not like it, even the Bush administration must abide by the law.”
The Forest Service relied on its 1982 version of the National Forest Management Act regulations for two decades in preparing regional forest plans and implementing individual projects — such as timber sales and road construction — throughout the national forest system. The agency substantially revised the regulations in 2000, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that it had violated the National Environmental Policy Act in developing those regulations. (Please see Citizens for Better Forestry v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 341 F.3d 961 (9th Cir. 2003)).
The Forest Service again revised the regulations in 2005, but a federal court recently found that in doing so the agency had violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedures Act. (Citizens for Better Forestry v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 481 F.Supp. 2d 1059 (N.D. Cal. 2007)). The court therefore issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the Forest Service from implementing the 2005 regulations.
On April 27, 2007, in response to the court’s injunction of the 2005 regulations, the Forest Service issued national direction to all regions to revert to the 2000 regulations — even though these regulations had also been found to be illegal by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
“The Forest Service refuses to reinstate the only rules that were adopted legally, and that protect our forests,” said Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center.
The fourteen plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Citizens for Better Forestry, Environmental Protection Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Wild West Institute, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Idaho Sporting Congress, Friends of the Clearwater, Utah Environmental Congress, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, The Lands Council, and Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. In addition to attorneys Marc Fink and Lisa Belenky of the Center for Biological Diversity, the plaintiffs in this case are represented by Pete Frost, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center.