National Forest Legal News Blog


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Wyoming Judge Tosses Obama Drilling Rules

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on August 13, 2011 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (1)


The AP reports here that Judge Freundenthal of the Wyoming Federal District Court in Cheyenne has ruled agains the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management's attempt to slow down drilling permits.  The court ruled that the BLM and Forest Service had failed to follow the correct procedures in issuing a new interpretation of federal law that limited the use of "categorical exclusions," which exempt certain actions from full environmental oversight..  According to the AP article:

"In Wyoming, the BLM invoked categorical exclusions for 87 percent of the new gas wells drilled in the Upper Green River Basin between 2007 and 2010. Those drilling permits added up: Close to 3,000 over those three years in the basin's Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline gas fields."

Whitebark Pines Won't Get ESA Protection - Yet.

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on July 18, 2011 at 5:18 PM Comments comments (0)

According to a report from the AP, the federal government is citing lack of funding and other priorities for its decision not to list the whitebark pine under the Endangered Species Act.  The whitebark pine is an important food source for grizzlies and it's decline has been cited in litigation over grizzly protections near Yellowstone and Grand Teton. 

New Decision - Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Weldon

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on July 7, 2011 at 3:52 PM Comments comments (0)

Montana - Judge Lovell of the District Court for the District of Montana denied the plaintiff's request to withdraw its motion for a preliminary injunction as to the State of Montana's aerial hazing of buffalo.  First, the court found that the plaintiff failed to join the State of Montana, an indispensible party.  Second, the court ruled that the case should continue on the merits because whether the state could haze the buffalo from the sky under the ESA is an important issue needed to be resolved.  The court basically stated that although the hazing had currently ended, it would continue.  The court ordered the government to answer the complaint in 30 days.  11-CV-76-M-CCL (D. Mont. June 6, 2011).

District Judge Anna Brown Rejects Enviros Lawsuit to Stop Timber Sale

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on June 30, 2011 at 3:41 PM Comments comments (0)

The court rejected environmental groups' lawsuit over the Forest Service's thinning plan for Umatilla National Forest in Oregon.  The League of Wilderness Defenders-Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and the Sierra Club say the Wildcat Fuels Reduction and Vegetation Management Project was approved after a deficient environmental assessment. The groups were critical of the project near/within/around a so-called pristine (garden of eden-paradisal) roadless expanse.  The case was originally filed in August of 2009.  Judge Brown, a Clinton-appointee rejected the appeal, writing:


On this record the Court agrees the Forest Service is entitled to deference and, therefore, the Court defers to the Forest Service’s technical expertise and its scientists. Accordingly, the Court adopts the Forest Service’s conclusion that the impact of the proposed Timber Sale on roadless expanses in the Forest would not be significant and would not substantially affect the quality of the human environment. See Found. for N. Am. Wild Sheep, 681 F.2d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1982).


You can access the full text opinion here.

2011 Public Land Law Conference September 14-16 at the University of Montana School of Law

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on June 27, 2011 at 12:41 PM Comments comments (0)

The Public Land & Resources Law Review at the University of Montana School of Law is excited to host the 34th Public Land Law Conference this fall at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. If possible, please post this event on your calendar of events and also consider attending. Below is all the pertinent information. Also, attached is the conference schedule.

What: Public Land Law Conference: “Strengthening Our Roots: Forest Law &

Policy in a Changing World.”

Hosted by: University of Montana Public Land & Resources Law Review

Where: Third Floor Conference Room, The University Center, The University of

Montana, Missoula, MT

When: Sept. 14-16, 2011

Cost: Free

The Scoop: Experts from throughout Montana and the western United States will

gather at the University of Montana for a three-day Public Land Law Conference.

Speakers and panelists will examine an array of forest-related issues, including an

assessment of 100 years of forest planning, new rules in forest planning, Native

American use rights on forest lands, media coverage of forest issues, and legal

issues in forest management. University of Colorado Law Professor Charles

Wilkinson will be the conference keynote speaker at the event, hosted by the

University of Montana Public Land & Resources Law Review.



Dave Whisenand

Conference Editor

Public Land & Resources Law Review

Forest Service Helps Develop A Better Baseball Bat

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on June 15, 2011 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The USDA Forest Service's Forest Products Lab in Madison is helping solve the age old problem with broken bats.  According to this press release the USDA's research engineers have recommended changes to slope of grain to stop multiple fractures from occurring resulting in a signficant safety hazard to players and fans.  You can read a more in depth piece here from the Associated Press.

9th Circuit Upholds Sierra Nevada Forest Plan

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on May 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM Comments comments (0)

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a 4-part decision rejecting legal challenges to the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan by environmentals.  The State of California, the Sierra Forest Legacy, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society claim that the Forest Service violated NEPA both by failing to consider short-term impacts of the 2004 Framework and by failing to disclose and rebut expert opposition. Sierra Forest separately contends that the Forest Service violated NEPA when approving the Basin Project by failing to analyze cumulative impacts to sensitive species. Sierra Forest also argues that the 2004 Framework violates NFMA by failing to maintain viable populations of old forest wildlife.


Writing for the Court, Judge Fisher explained that the the Framework SEIS adequately addressed short-term impacts to old forest wildlife and disclosed and rebutted public opposition. Similarly, the court held that the Forest Service did not violate NEPA when approving the Basin Project because the Forest Service adequately addressed cumulative impacts of the proposed management action. However, the court did find one minor NEPA violation where the Forest Service failed to update the alternatives from the 2001 Framework SEIS to reflect new modeling techniques used in the 2004 Framework SEIS.


However, because of a split on the rationale for the holdings, the court remanded the case back to the district court.  Specifically, Judge Reinhardt's narrow ruling controlled.  He held that the Forest Service lacks power retroactively to amend forest plans, so the 2007 Amendment to the 2004 Framework did not change the population monitoring requirements for management indicator species applicable to the Basin Project.  Therefore the court remanded for the district court to determine in the first instance whether, when it approved the Project, the Forest Service had complied with the 2004 Framework’s population monitoring requirements.


Meanwhile, Judge Noonan issued a dissenting opinion for the reasons explained in his concurrencein Sierra Forest Legacy v. Rey, 577 F.3d 1015, 1024-26 (9th Cir. 2009) (Noonan, J., concurring).


You can access the full court's opinion here.

9th Circuit Refuses Rehearing in NEDC Case

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on May 18, 2011 at 10:14 AM Comments comments (1)

Setting the stage for an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, the full 9th Circuit has denied a request for rehearing in the NEDC v. Brown.  The court's prior ruling essentially tossed out the silvicultural exemption to the CWA and held that run off from logging roads is a "point source" of pollution such that an NPDES permit is required.  This opinion from the 9th Circuit rejects Oregon and timber organizations' request for a rehearing before the full 9th Circuit. 


"We therefore hold that the 1987 amendments to the CWA do not exempt from the [national] permitting process stormwater runoff from logging roads that is collected in a system of ditches, culverts, and channels, and is then discharged into streams and rivers,...This collected runoff constitutes a point source discharge of stormwater 'associated with industrial activity...'" 


Interestingly, no judge within the 9th Circuit requested that it be re-heard.  That leads me to believe that even the conservative wing of the court believes that the decision is sound.  I'm just speculating though.  The conservatives could also realize that this is headed to the Supreme Court and a rehearing is nothing more than a waste of everyone's time.   

*Editorial.  This type of runoff is a drop in the bucket when it comes to water pollution.  In my city, Milwaukee, the sewarage district continually discharges billions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage directly into Lake Michigan (see below).  Neither the feds nor environmentals say or do anything about such massive pollution, but when a farmer allows runoff from his fields into a culvert, the environmentals are all over it.  My question is why?

State of Alaska, Feds Disagree Over Projects on the Tongass

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on May 16, 2011 at 10:34 AM Comments comments (0)

Following Judge Sedgwick's decision in March to reinstate a 2001 roadless rule that bars most all logging and temporary road construction in the Tongass National Forest, the New York Times reports that the parties are back in court seeking to define the scope of that decision.  While both the Forest Service and the state agree that certain projects may continue, they disagree over additional mining and timber sales that were approved prior to the court's ruling.  The state filed this objection and to the proposed judgment of environmental groups and the Forest Service which is much more restrictive and only allows cutting of wood for personal use and some microsales of no more than 50,000 feet near an already existing road.  So, the conclusion here is that Alaska's timber industry will continue its downward spire, despite sitting on an immense renewable natural resource.   

New Lawsuit: Environmentals File Suit Over Appeals Reform Act

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on May 4, 2011 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Courthouse News Service is reporting on this new lawsuit filed by Sequoia Forest Keepers, Conservation Congress, Earth Island Institute, Western Watersheds Project, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Ouachita Watch League, Utah Environmental Congress, and Wildearth Guardians. The lawsuit, which can be found here, seeks to strike down certain regulations that exempt projects under the ARA from notice and comment.  If successful, certain exempt projects, small in size and scope, would stagnate in litigation.  Essentially, this would entirely undermine the purpose of streamling projects and frustrate the work of Forest Service professionals.   


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