AWR Loses Litigation on “Most Innocuous Logging Project”

flathead IMG_2103

flathead IMG_2102      Thanks to an alert reader for this.  Sounds like the judge shares folks’ annoyance at AWR’s (Alliance for Wild Rockies) selection of litigation projects and behavior.. to summarize:

1) FS responds to AWR and others’ comments by reducing projects.

2) AWR litigates anyway

3) Plaintiffs’ complaints are solely based on relatively insignificant alleged procedural missteps and they point to no actual or even reasonably potential harm the Project will cause to any of the relevant species.

It sounds like something I would say. In this case, it is hard to argue that AWR is all about making the FS “follow the law”. In fact, it is difficult to understand what it is really about other than the potential power of sitting in settlement meetings and determining outcomes.  Even then, though, some of the dogs AWR is choosing won’t hunt.

  From page 3.  My italics.

This Project is the most innocuous logging project to be challenged in this Court to date. The Project was dramatically reduced in scope following public comment, primarily by the Plaintiffs, from 12,563 acres to approximately 3,650 acres. Only 500 acres will be thinned per year. No roads will be reopened or created for Project use. Only hand trimming will be performed, with hand tools used near bull trout critical habitat. The trees that will be thinned fall far short of commercial size–most are one to five inches in diameter and only a few feet tall.
In short, this Project, compared to the majority of projects that come before the Court, is truly designed to promote and restore forest health, and will benefit the endangered species inhabiting the Flathead National Forest. Plaintiffs’ complaints are solely based on relatively insignificant alleged procedural missteps by the Forest Service, and they point to no actual or even reasonably potential harm the Project will cause to any of the relevant species. For these reasons, as well as the legal analysis to follow, Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment will be denied and Defendants’ motion will be granted.

Here’s the whole document:  Flathead Decision.

I checked out who the officers are and here’s a link. If you know any of them, ask the question “why did you pick this one?” I think we’d be curious as to the answers.

Again, I think if a mediation session open to the public were required beforehand this might have been kept out of the courtroom and the resulting waste of judges, lawyers and FS employees’ time.  My previous efforts to understand Mr. Garrity’s point of view and choice of projects can be found here (whitebark pine) and here (Colt Summit). It seems so simple that if folks litigate projects, they should be asked upfront what they hope to achieve and why, without violating “basic democratic principles.”  If they were member organizations, we could join and ask them to become members of the Transparent Litigators Coalition. I like the acronym, anyway :).

25 Comments

  1. “…I think if a mediation session open to the public were required beforehand this might have been kept out of the courtroom and the resulting waste of judges, lawyers and FS employees’ time.”

    Sharon, I’ve long though that mediation ought to be required before going to court, for the reasons you cite. Mediation might be performed by a forest’s Resource Advisory Committee (RAC), or something like it. Mac McConnell, in a 2011 commentary in the Journal of Forestry, sees RACs having a greater, and permannet role:

    “In effect, the RAC would serve as the forest’s Board of Directors, representing the shareholders (the public) and providing guidance and direction to the CEO (the forest supervisor).”

    See http://www.wvmcconnell.net/?page_id=603

    Anyone care to speculate about this approach?

    • Well, the Quincy Library Group has been in a similar position, and that hasn’t stopped lawsuits by Chad Hanson. Of course, he wins by going to the Ninth Circuit Court, despite local collaboration, and bi-partisan Congressional support. I don’t think the serial litigators are going to stop, anytime soon. Short term harm always trumps long term benefits, in timber projects.

      I’m kind of wondering why the Forest Service is even bothering with this project, now that it has been stripped down. It seems more like a service contract, now.

  2. The RACs would have to be given some teeth. Perhaps a requirement that any plaintiffs seek RAC mediation before that are allowed to file a lawsuit, and a requirement that courts consider RAC decisions and positions.

  3. “I don’t think the serial litigators are going to stop, anytime soon.”

    Speaking from personal experience on the Tongass, I agree with you 100% Larry — because it is clear even the existing environmental laws are inadequate protections as evidenced by the decades of Charlie Foxtrot debacles and serial mismanagement of the agency in charge of the NFS.

    As evidenced by the Tonka and Big Thorne Timber Sales locally, and the rest of the fiascos nationally, I don’t think the serial land mis-managers “are going to stop anytime soon” either.

    I still think professional mis-managers of public lands should be held personally accountable for violations of environmental laws (instead of being rewarded and promoted as they routinely are.) I suspect there would be substantially less reasons for citizen oversight and litigation should there be the same professional consequences to professional foresters as to professional architects, engineers, medical professionals, etc. when their failures become evident.

    And Sharon, I find your link inviting your readers to contact the AWR board, (as was your attempt at the invocation of impropriety of a GSACC board member), to be at best, professionally ignoble.

  4. AS usual I fall in the middle of this, I agree with David on some cases and elements of bad FS history but the case sharon posted on does seem innocuous.

    And I agree with David on your last sentence, thanks for speaking up David since too often we don;t hear that voice unless Matthew sticks his head up and takes the heat. I could not do this myself.

    • Why is this called a “logging project,” innocuous or otherwise? I didn’t see a single log-sized tree in the photographs or read a description of anything other than a typical precommercial thinning project — which are generally recognized as creating positive wildlife values in addition to better spacing of trees (aesthetics, wildfire risk, improved “leave tree” growth, etc.). Thank goodness the judge had the common sense to through this out of court — it should have never gotten there in the first place. Just more bull trout from the environmental industry.

    • Yes, it is easy to blame dead and retired foresters for things they had to do in the last millennium. However, we should not be using the past, to block the future. Here in California, we won’t be going back to clearcutting and high-grading. However, some would like you to think that will happen with their accusations of slippery slopes. They prefer general, one-size-fits-all theories, instead of site-specific compromises, that balances short term harm with long term benefits.

      • yes, and too few of them knew enough about the specifics to offer a cogent response other than the generic opposition based on psuedo science or sloppy reading -with some exceptions. The thing about the feds is that even if they were wrong, they usually knew enough to offer very convincing arguments and it came back to a very specific piece of ground.

        But I am just thumping the same drum again ad nauseum.

        lets talk about awful things the FS has done lately so I can lay off the enviros, god forbid that many of my friends read this.

        Can somebody please give me a very recent example of genuinely egregious FS work so I can sharpen my teeth on the feds for once.

  5. All of the anti USFS litigation is financed with tax forgiven money. At a time when this country is facing tough spending limits, political acrimony over revenues, the issue of mindless, countless tax avoidance loopholes that are directed at specific venues of social engineering, all which are the most egregious leaks of treasure our Federal, State, and local governments foster, I guess my comment is that we get the results we want from who we elect. The whole of the environmental “aginners” is financed with tax forgiven money. And none of the litigants are taxable organizations. Tax forgiven passing of generational fortunes fund the whole of the environmental litigation process and it is the tax paying public that funds the courts, and the the tax paying defendants in the process. If I have a free legal team for life, how much mischief might I cause just because I can? If civil legal fees were awarded to the winner of the litigation, from the loser’s pockets, and they are to the NGOs with the EAJA(which is funded by taxes–and AG Holder has said publicly that Justice keeps no journal record of what they spend annually on EAJA, that the number does not interest him) , then the litigation would be avoided much more often. The former plaintiffs would be clamoring to be a part of a mediation process. The AWR litigants have no skin in the game. Theirs is an exercise in protection of ethereal Kodak moments in a universe that is in constant change, their issues and interests about stopping time and nobody in the real world has yet to perfect that with life, and life is what an ecosystem is composed of. There is no cost, when they lose, and generous EAJA funds if they win. High stakes legal poker, and the tax payers pay all the antes. As it now stands, taxable money in the game can never win. Stays in place or goes backwards.

    Wow!! A sharp shinned hawk just landed on the window ledge three feet from my face. Sparrows in the rhodies must be of interest.

    Life begins, for whatever purpose, lives the particular timed event it is entered in, and ends. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, compost to compost. A real act of preservation would be to keep a carton of cottage cheese edible in an icebox for a century, using real, renewable energy. And not lose value or cottage cheese. If I had a free lawyer for life, I could litigate to that end. Pointless? Yes. That IS the point. In the long haul, all AWR is doing is taking food out of babes’ mouths by spending other people’s tax money that could be of societal use, wasting legal educations, public treasure, and time in what becomes a pointless exercise. Or so say the fire researchers.

  6. Sharon wrote:

    Sounds like the judge shares folks’ annoyance at AWR’s (Alliance for Wild Rockies) selection of litigation projects and behavior.

    I disagree Sharon. It doesn’t sound like “the judge shares folks’ annoyance at AWR selection of litigation projects and behavior.”

    Rather here is what the Judge said:

    1: “This Project is the most innocuous logging project to be challenged in this Court to date.”

    2: “In short, this Project, compared to the majority of projects that come before the Court, is truly designed to promote and restore forest health, and will benefit the endangered species inhabiting the Flathead National Forest.”

    • I don’t get what you are saying, Matthew.. I was pointing out that this one is, even in the eyes of this judge, a bridge too far, or a project too innocuous. No one argues that this project was litigated by AWR. Therefore they went too far.. even if other litigators have not. What am I missing?

      • Sharon, from my perspective what you are missing is this (and, yes, much of this is simply repeated from what I wrote above):

        You wrote:

        Sounds like the judge shares folks’ annoyance at AWR’s (Alliance for Wild Rockies) selection of litigation projectS and behavior.

        I disagree with that statement for a few reasons. For starters, is there any evidence that this judge is annoyed with “litigation projectS and behavior” of AWR in gerneral? Or perhaps is the judge just annoyed with this one lawsuit? Seems to me from the judge’s very clear language below it’s just this one lawsuit. It also seems to me that from your language above you want to make it seem like all “folks,” including supposedly the judge, are annoyed with AWR’s “litigation projectS and behavior.” However, there is really no evidence that the judge shares your views. And what segment of society is covered with your use of the general “folks?”

        Anyway, again, here is what the Judge said:

        1: “This Project is the most innocuous logging project to be challenged in this Court to date.”

        2: “In short, this Project, compared to the majority of projects that come before the Court, is truly designed to promote and restore forest health, and will benefit the endangered species inhabiting the Flathead National Forest.”

        Greg also provided some comments on these statements from the judge, which I think shed further light on what the judge was, and just as importantly, wasn’t, thinking. I should also point out that AWR is, in fact, a membership organization. So go ahead and join Sharon, the AWR membership info is clearly visible on AWR’s homepage.

        Here’s a bonus research question: How often has this judge ruled in favor of AWR, vs ruled against them?

        P.S. Blog readers may also be interested to know that we have discussed/debated this project before.

        Here’s a meat-n-potatoes quote from Arlene Montgomery about this project for “folks” to chew on:

        “The public notice was vague and did not provide adequate information on the effects of this project,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan. “It did not provide accurate maps or a description of where the 3,650 treatment acres were located.”

        “I reviewed the project file that was supposed to contain the analysis for wildlife, fish, vegetation, soils, and other resources. What I found were discrepancies between and within the Forest Service team’s reports. For example, the bull trout analysis did not identify where treatments will occur in relation to bull trout critical habitat and it put the site-specific analysis off to a later time. But with a categorical exclusion there will be no later time for analysis. There appears to be extensive thinning planned for Big Creek, which is bull trout critical habitat, yet there was no analysis,” Montgomery continued.

        “Based on the lack of information and analysis as well as other issues we raised in our comments, we do not believe that this project qualifies for a categorical exclusion. Extraordinary circumstances exist and the Flathead failed to take a hard look at the cumulative effects to sensitive, threatened and endangered species and other forest resources,” Montgomery added.

  7. It always blows me away that some of the best snowshoe hare habitat, and thus lynx habitat, is the young trees in a regenerated clearcut… to the extent that the USFS in Colorado at one time banned pre-commercial thinning in regen clearcuts.

    It still blows me away that all this litigation is based on “procedural.” I still say it would be possible to get a judge to slap an injunction on all “non-motorized” recreation in wilderness areas and national parks NOT because hiking harms grizzly bear, but because I know the USFS or national Park service has never “analyzed” whether it does or doesn’t. Actually, I have read “science” that does imply that hikers do deny habitat…but it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t…all that matters is they haven’t analyzed it. I would win wouldn’t I? Wouldn’t it be a hoot. Of course, it would have to be “project specific”…and seldom are there “projects” in Wilderness….Hmmm, except…I have read several CE projects for “trail construction”…that should do. Of course…I wouldn’t want to deny a living to all the “guides” out there nor make the USFS spend zillions on ridiculous analysis…but wouldn’t it be fun to pick a wilderness area near a nice “enviro enclave” just to be a burr under their saddle. Aspen Colorado perhaps….no…they’re all for logging now. Purely an academic exercise.

    I love pre-commercial thinning…but since “producing timber” isn’t a USFS policy anymore…why bother. Some of the most beautiful lodgepole forests I’ve seen were PCT 20 years ago…I’m thinking Hyalite Canyon around Bozeman…but frankly, it’s a waste of money better spent on “lawsuit proofing” more timber sale EIS’s. I think it would be useful to PCT some regen clearcuts around municipalities that have suffered huge MPB mortality….just to give the locals a decent forest to go mountain biking in 20 years….purely for recreational purposes…I’m thinking Breckenridge Colorado. Some the MPB Timber Sale projects I’ve seen In Colorado are huge and encircle past regen clearcuts. Now…it’s not hard to visualize where the public will be hanging out in 20 years. It will be quite ironic if they “recreate” in
    “past timber sales” with a nice mix of “open grown park like” lodgepole that was PCT today and surrounded by regen…VS a “natural” forest that is either full of tangled deadfall or recently burned. Where are the USFS “landscape architects” on this one? If PCT is used today, it should be to provide decent forests near municipalities for the public to recreate in.

    One of the biggest complaints I have about the USFS in Montana, is the amount of money they spend on non-commercial treatments like “slashing small diameter tree in preparation for RX burning.” The Beaverhead Deerlodge and Helena are the biggest offenders. The idea is to “restore” them…mostly meadow restoration…but these are forests that take 5 years to get an EIS out the door, have logged 5% in 50 years and are only logging (treating) 1% in 30 years. When you’re logging or “slashing small diameter trees” on such a tiny percentage of land…you’re not influencing anything. Why not wait for the inevitable wildfire to do the restoration for you. On NF’s in Colorado that are “getting out the cut” in response to the MPB epidemic..there are NO projects that “slash small diameter trees,” and frankly very little money is spent on PCT or RX burning. They don’t have the time or money for “pop forestry.”

  8. In a closer review of the entire corpus of AWRs legal work, I wonder what we will find but note that judge was clear in his opinion that most other such cases that came before the court were projects not designed to benefit forest health and endangered species.

    If AWR perhaps overreached on this one, the judge seemed to think they had not on others.

    Of course, he is not a forester so what the heck does he have to say about this.

    Leave it to us. Yes yes yes.

    Looky, I got a big fat degree or two in forest science but in all truth, I work on watersheds, not trees so I am something of a fraud on those credentials.

    • ahh chill out nagle. Lets talk about something we can all agree on, evil pot growers in N CA.
      Here is the link, I know the author well. Note the google earth part showing impacts on hillsides. Awful, I know this area well, worked here years ago and I was recently told that the grows have increased tremendously in last couplle of years. Like a lot of ethical old hippies, we don;t like this and I would be happy to see many stewing in jail. I did stream surveys here among the growers and it was a weird experience.

      Off topic I know, just trying to lighten up. We can talk about it elsewhere.

      http://www.thenation.com/article/176955/pot-growing-bad-environment#

    • 1. Maybe this judge has not seen all the others?
      2. I don’t think that all vegetation management activities must be designed for “forest health” and to “protect endangered species” as a purpose. the purpose could be to “provide timber to mills” and as long as they do not harm endangered species they should be OK.
      3. It seems to me that Colt Summit was also overreaching (in terms of real harm to any creature, the unit had to do more analysis, but that’s it) and ultimately unsuccessful. And that’s just projects featured on this blog. Perhaps Montanans know of others..
      4. It appears that Ms Montgomery thinks that things were suboptimal in terms of notice and analysis (I have not checked myself so don’t know) but the judge disagreed. If you really believe that the FS wasn’t following the law, but the judge disagrees.. then.. maybe you were not correct in our beliefs.
      5. If AWR picks six projects that deserve litigation and two that don’t (I’m not doing the research, but there are folks in Montana who know this) , it is still of interest. Weren’t there enough to fill their quota for the year? Is there a quota? Is their corporate analysis of “deserving” off? Why?

  9. “It seems so simple that if folks litigate projects, they should be asked upfront what they hope to achieve and why, without violating “basic democratic principles.” If they were member organizations…”

    Sharon, as Matthew pointed out, AWR is a member organization, as you must have seen if you navigated to their homepage. The answer to what they hope to achieve and why, for any given project, is readily available simply by reading their filed complaint, which is publicly available online. That lays out every issue they identify, why they think it’s an issue, and what remedy is being sought. Normally you can get a lot of additional information by reading the appeal also, which is an in-depth attempt to identify and offer solutions for the issues, and it occurs pre-litigation. The FS should post those online for public viewing, and often does, but for this project apparently didn’t bother to do so, and only posted its own response to the appeal which paraphrased what the appellants were asking for (link below, if it works). As for how many previous AWR cases Judge Christensen has presided over, I don’t know, but commonly “the Court” (with a capital “C”) is synonymous with the judge, so it’s likely (not certain, but likely) when he refers to “this Court” he actually is referring to cases he’s seen. As with most federal cases, I think it’s a mistake to read “annoyance” into the decision, the judge weighs the different parties’ positions and makes a (hopefully) reasoned decision, in this case it was in favor of the defendants, but I wouldn’t assume that he was feeling especially emotional about it. -Guy

    Flathead thinning project page.

    • Guy.. I guess I’m willing to read one more complaint without getting paid… so can you send me the link? Also I would really like to read more decisions but thought I would have to pay to get them and they are not very user friendly to find (I guess unless you are a lawyer). You might wonder how I have read so many if I don’t know how to find them, the answer is that they were sent to us and they circulated around our office on email.

      I have read plenty of complaints, and worked on numerous appeals, including reading many many others. Generally, they follow a format.. “FS violated NEPA, NFMA and ESA, in many cases procedurally.” Usually they have a great deal of obviously incorrect kitchen-sinkery thrown in. They tend to be written in a fairly snarky tone and use words that imply that the FS is a bunch of venal nitwits (“egregious” violation, etc. etc.) I know that this is just cultural expression but still, if I never read one again, that would be fine.

      But you know, and I know, that the case is not really about those purported violations. People don’t litigate because the FS “disobeyed the law” in their program documents; people litigate because they can influence policy if they win by finding procedural or substantive issues that the FS was weak on.

      that’s what I mean by “the real reason”. Some groups are upfront.. “we want to remove grazing from public lands” for example.

      If groups cared about what non-members thought about them and their activities, I think that they would publish something in English that says.. “we think no tree bigger than 4 inches should be cut and if we win this case, that’s our position.” Or “we don’t believe coal mines should be on public land.”

      Telling someone that they need to go online and find a 40 page document of legalese and that buried in there somewhere is the group’s position sounds kind of uninterested in communicating with the public and building popular support with those beyond the membership. I think that’s one of the reasons that people question this way of setting policy.

      In our previous discussion on this I mentioned Bevington’s book. Here is a previous post that engaged that book in greater depth.

      • hi Sharon, I downloaded both the Complaint and the Forest Service’s attorneys’ Answer, and posted them here:
        http://www.gknudsenlaw.com/flathead-thinning-complaint/

        There’s also public access to all of these fed case documents through http://www.pacer.gov/
        One has to have an account, it’s free and if your downloading is moderate then there’s no charge for it. Since I use it a lot, I don’t get them for free and have to pay by the page, but this case is interesting/useful for me and I wanted my own copies, so not a problem.

        Yes, the language on both sides can be a little snarky, but it is almost always very specific about the issues! We’ll have to agree to disagree about the “real reason” behind many of these suits. I don’t think they’re really about policy disagreements at all, since the policies are set down in law. Plaintiffs are the ones who are in agreement with the policy (i.e. in agreement with the law), and are saying that FS should be following its own policy (and other federal policy). If FS can convince the judge that they are indeed following their own policy, they win the case (as here). When FS loses the case, which happens quite often, the judge is saying quite specifically that FS is not following its legally mandated policy. I really don’t understand how anyone could interpret that as “we don’t like your policy”, that seems like a bad case of denial. It’s like the wife-beater who gets sent to prison, then complains it’s because the judge didn’t like his lynnrd skynnrd t-shirt.

      • If I had had to spend months or years responding to poorly rendered complaints by some half read legal intern who hardly knows the lit or the ground, I would have lost my mind. I do not mind close reviews of genuine science, I can spend days on it, but too many complaints I have seen were scatter shot attempts to just gum up the process,

        Being extremely uptight about accuracy and being viewed publicly myself as honest and reliable, I had a really hard time with “some” enviros.

        I had to explain to myself that there are different roles for people and few can stand in the shoes of “science” as I prefer to do.

        The problem is that much or most of the complaints were fighting the last war and had little to do with current practices which really did need an objective evaluation. But I found little interest in that outside the FS who in fact, do need to behave like professionals and give intelligent answers, unlike too many enviros who seemed like religious nuts.

        ( Matthew is not one of those, so do not pile on him, unlike many of them he really makes me want to listen to his views,)

        I put out a number of pictures of thinning or salvage to the opposition asking what exactly they did not like about what I showed and rarely did they offer a detailed, much less informed response.

        They would have failed my classes,

        But to give credit where due, although I disagree with some of Chad Hanson’s appeals, I do get intelligent answers out of him. He did earn that PhD the hard way and i can carry on an actual conversation with him on many topics. I prefer to argue with someone who knows more than me and he has me cold on some topics.

        Written from Luang Prabang, Laos,

  10. There are a lot of similar LP thinning projects in central Oregon that go forward without complaints from all but one enviro group which appearsto have never seen any tree cutting of any kind that they can support. And the director of that called himself an ecologist without any kind of degree apparent.

    For that matter, and perhaps speaking as a fool, if the entire project here on the flathead had gone through I might have been fine with it. Even a few new low impact roads using recent BMP standards would have been fine, if the road can be closed and rehabbed, what is the problem? If people want to talk about sediment they ought to have their duckies lined up since I have a largish pile of research pubs on sediment and often logging causes much much less sediment than desk jockies may imagine, using recent BMPs of course.

    I much dislike it when some enviro hydro consultant pulls out sediment studies from rapacious clear cut logging in the Idaho batholith from 35 years ago. Do those consultants actually read recent work? And how does their sloppy work hold up in court. Hey, I am concerned about sediment too but best have the data on hand or keep it out of court.

    I completely devastated a poorly done review of watershed impacts of current thinning done for a major enviro group. I viewed it as not only sloppy but dishonest. Bite my tongue.

    Too often we harken back to the old days of FS management, too often a sorry legacy with all those miles of ghost roads on the flathead, but that was then, what about now?

    Onwards, Laos beckons, headed to Dien Bien Phu today and the border.

  11. Keep in mind this was 3600 acres of precommercial on a suitable base of 700,000 some across several ranger districts. A section per year in which a good bit of it could be done with a wheeled chopper. Instead we have this expensive grunt work that costs lots of money.
    Judge Christensen is new to the game but no turnip. He follows Molloy and knows he is constrained by the Ninth’s extremism in terms of forestry for economic purposes. So whether this is a “good” sign for forest management, or just something DC could get away with without an appeal, who knows.

    • I am fine with using those choppers, can someone offer a reason not to use them, Ground impacts seem minimal, so what exactly is the problem. Hand work will accomplish too little given the large swatches needing such treatment but they do use them in central Oregon, a place with potential for compaction on pumice soils but that can be avoided almost completely these days,

      And while we are at it, why not drag out a few logs and (gasp) sell them,

  12. What can you expect from a judge that refers to ESA as the ‘Environmental Species Act?’ Apparently the teaching from OGC to DOJ to the judge (or to his law clerk) did not go well here. On the other hand, Judge Christensen apparently learned to opine about the merits of a decision from Judge Molloy. (The judge’s contrasting this case to ‘the majority of cases that come before the court’ is based on only a couple of years in the job – but what DOES this say about those cases?)

    This case would not be as innocuous as it seems if plaintiffs were able to show that this was lynx foraging habitat. Thinning of small trees is one of the worst things that could happen to lynx habitat. However, the FS and FWS had demonstrated that this is matrix habitat that does not support snowshoe hares, so thinning does not adversely affect lynx.

    Another possible reason for a case like this is that categorical exclusions may be viewed as undesirable NEPA shortcuts, and some would like to limit their use.

    This project seems to be a pretty good example of doing the analysis necessary to support a reasoned decision. However, I think there are a couple of issues related to the decision itself that are more than what the judge describes as ‘relatively insignificant alleged procedural missteps.’ In two places, this opinion sanctions a failure to identify where management activities will occur, which makes analysis of their effects incomplete.

    With regard to treatments in riparian areas (and bull trout habitat), decisions are left to the future judgment of a ‘fisheries biologist.’ With regard to meeting a forest plan requirement for maximum distance to cover, the decision document is apparently silent, but the court accepts an ambiguous statement in the biological assessment as assuring compliance with the forest plan. Where environmental effects or compliance with plan direction may be different depending upon project layout, then that layout should be part of the decision reviewed by the public and signed by the decision maker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *