In a decision that should surprise no one who has been paying attention, a D.C. federal district court judge has tossed out the timber industry’s lawsuit challenging the 2012 NFMA planning rule. Industry alleged a potpourri of substantive claims against the planning rule, but won’t get a chance to argue them. The judge dismissed industry’s complaint on standing grounds; thus, she did not rule on the merits of industry’s claims.
As to standing, her decision is simplicity itself and flows directly from the Supreme Court’s Ohio Forestry ruling, which found the Sierra Club could not challenge a forest plan’s timber management regime because the plan doesn’t decide to cut any particular trees. Actual tree cutting decisions are made in subsequent site-specific project decisions.
Similarly, the 2012 planning rule doesn’t decide to log or to protect from logging any particular national forest acre. The tree cutting and forest protecting decisions are made in subsequent forest plans and projects. Whether more or fewer trees will be cut under the 2012 planning rule is pure conjecture, says the judge, and thus cannot be the cause of the various injuries the timber industry claims. Industry had claimed that the 2012 planning rule will mean fewer trees cut, injuring it economically. And that less logging would mean more fires, injuring the recreational interests of off-road vehicle users. The judge wasn’t buying it.