Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Big Victory for National Forests

Sierra Club Victory in Ninth Circuit Deals Blow to Bush Administration’s So-Called "Healthy Forests" Initiative

Court Rules That Administration Cannot Ignore Environmental Laws to Log Forests

San Francisco, California--In the case of Sierra Club v. Bosworth, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Forest Service erred when it conducted logging projects nationwide without prior analysis of their effects on the environment.

Sierra Club and Sierra Forest Legacy (formerly named Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign) filed the suit in October 2004 challenging the Bush Administration's "Healthy Forest Initiative" rule that eliminated a 30-year-old Forest Service practice of analyzing the environmental effects of timber sales up to 1,000 acres and prescribed burns up to 4,500 acres
before allowing such projects to proceed.

Today’s ruling from the Ninth Circuit said the U.S. Forest Service erred because it:

  • Exempted from the National Environmental Policy Act a huge class of logging classified as "fuels reduction" first, and then later gathered the environmental impact data
  • Failed to assess the cumulative effects of logging 1.2 million acres per year nationwide
  • Failed to assess highly controversial and uncertain risks of impacts
  • Failed to put more specific constraints on what can be logged

Statement of Eric Huber, Senior Staff Attorney, Sierra Club

"This victory is a blow to the Bush Administration's cynical "Healthy Forests" initiative and will help protect millions of acres of national forest each year from destructive and unnecessary logging projects. This ruling will help ensure that vast swaths of our national forests are not logged without environmental reviews under the guise of forest management or fuel suppression. The Sierra Club supports forest management practices that actually seek to protect communities and our precious wild forests and minimize the risk of wildfires, but this case is just one more example of the Bush administration's disastrous overreach on environmental issues.

The courts have once again had to tell the administration that it simply cannot ignore laws--environmental and otherwise--simply because it finds them inconvenient."

Statement of Craig Thomas, Executive Director of Sierra Forest Legacy
"In California, since the adoption of the Bush Administration rule, we have witnessed the gross abuse of discretion and ramp-up of logging with limited environmental review that we feared. Logging without environmental safeguards damages our forests and the public's trust in Forest Service management."

The full opinion can be viewed here.

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