“How litigation has shaped the Forest Service”

More on litigation and forest management in the Northern Region:

Law of the land: How litigation has shaped the Forest Service

“The Northern Region has experienced a relatively high level of litigation,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown. “From 2008 through 2013, the region had more than 70 projects litigated. In recent years, litigation has encumbered as much as 40 to 54 percent of the region’s planned timber harvest volume.”

3 Comments

  1. This article points out responsibility of leadership to become involved in management actions much earlier in the public involvement process. Until management is willing to take the time to identify all potentially effected interests and bring them together to participate in defining the goals for a specific parcel of forested land , we will continue to debate, disagree and litigate the proposed solutions, tools. When leadership learns to involve the public in establishing goals and objectives before proposing solution, we will have a chance to successfully discuss potential solutions and implement management actions to improve the forest health and diversity. To put it simply, Forest Service leadership must assume much of the responsibility for the increased litigation we are experiencing.

    • Serial litigators often refuse to participate in the collaborative process, claiming it is “fixed” or corrupt. Indeed, in some places, extremist participation is not desired, as Matt and others have addressed. Both sides need to at least try to work out the differences, just in case there is a chance for enhanced consensus.

  2. Interesting that the very 1st sentence of this article wasn’t highlighted in Steve’s original post:

    “While many people may decry litigious environmental groups and point fingers at judges that rule in the groups’ favor, it’s hard to deny that they have often prevailed in court, and the federal government has been found in violation of environmental laws.”

    Also, let’s look at some other figures more closely.

    From the article:

    “The Society of American Foresters study found that of the 1,125 lawsuits filed over federal land management between 1989 and 2008, the Forest Service won 53.8 percent of the cases while losing or settling the rest. Of those lawsuits, 78.9 percent sought less resource use and development.”

    As an American citizen I expect my federal government to have a better winning percentage than that, especially given the tremendous amount of ‘agency deference’ that judges give to the Forest Service.

    And did anyone else notice that more than 1 out of 5 lawsuits against the Forest Service are actually brought about by industry, industry groups or citizens that want MORE logging, mining, grazing, development, etc? When’s the last time you saw that figure in a news article?

    Another point: According to the USFS website: “The U.S. Forest Service Northern Region encompasses 25 million acres and is spread over 5 states. Included are 12 National Forests located within the perimeter of northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and Montana; and the National Grasslands in North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota.”

    So, in an area that covers 25 million acres of public lands (and includes numerous threatened and endangered species) on 12 National Forests and 2 National Grasslands….during a 6 year period (i.e. “From 2008 through 2013”) the U.S. Forest Service Region One “had more than 70 projects litigated.” That comes out to an average of less than one lawsuit per Forest Service management unit (i.e. National Forest or National Grassland) per year.

    Finally, I will point out that the environmental groups that sue the Forest Service ALWAYS FULLY PARTICIPATE in the NEPA process, the ONLY REQUIRED public participation requirement. Sometimes these groups also attend OPTIONAL ‘collaborative’ meetings, as time and resources allow. Since most all of these “collaborative” meetings in Montana take place mid-day, mid-week across a huge state, attending all the optional meeting of all the “collaborative” groups in Montana just isn’t possible…unless, perhaps, you are a large organization or a large industry and/or are paid to sit around that optional “collaboration” table.

    Thanks.

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