Court Rules In Favor Of Rim Fire Logging

Coincidentally, this on the Rim Fire litigation..from a local paper..here is the link and below an excerpt. No need for photos, thanks to Larry!

Sonora, CA — Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals nixed an argument by a group of nonlocal environmentalists that Rim Fire recovery logging threatens spotted owl habitat, effectively removing a potential log-jam to current clean-up efforts.

According to Stanislaus National Forest spokesperson Rebecca Garcia, “The Ninth Circuit Court ruled in favor of the US Forest Service on the Rim Fire case, and so the U.S. Forest Service, the Stanislaus National Forest will continue forward on the Rim Fire recovery efforts.” She adds, as far as the work being done, “Nothing had never stopped. The litigants had appealed to the courts back in August to get a stay to try to halt the work…out on the landscape…while they were putting together their case. But that was not granted and work has continued…until weather did not allow it…and it started up again this spring…and will continue as long as the wood is good.”

The court’s decision, which was filed in San Francisco Tuesday, leaves the plaintiffs, the Center for Biological Diversity, Earth Island Institute and California Chaparral Institute a final option: to see if the Supreme Court will hear their case. That route is both uncertain and likely to take more months than the planned scope of recovery efforts. The Ninth Circuit judges indicated in their decision that the plaintiffs had not established a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims under the National Environmental Policy Act. Additionally, the judges indicated that the Forest Service had re-established six protected activity centers where surveys detected owl presence; and accurately addressed the scientific literature on owl occupancy in post-fire, high-severity burn habitat.

Here’s to all the folks who worked on this case!!!

11 Comments

  1. “She adds, as far as the work being done, ‘Nothing had never stopped.'”

    So much for the idea that litigation is a disaster.

    “The Ninth Circuit judges indicated in their decision that the plaintiffs had not established a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims …”

    If you do the paperwork right, you reach nirvana. At a cost of only the time spent defending the case (which by the way creates jobs, which is always good), and with the satisfaction of being fairly certain the the other side won’t get paid (by us) for their time. What’s not to like?

    • Jon,

      You are being totally ridiculous. Have you considered all of the jobs we could create if we just eliminated the ESA, NEPA, and NFMA? And we shouldn’t stop there. We need to get rid of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and every other law that seeks to “clean” something up. Pollution is the cost of doing business. We’re losing good-paying jobs to these environmentalists!

      Jobs and progress should always trump the environment. No matter what. Who cares about some stupid threatened owls. We don’t need them. They don’t pay taxes.

      *smirk*

  2. here’s a link to that decision if anyone’s interested: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2015/05/26/14-16948.pdf

    Note that the newspaper is incorrect in claiming the judges indicated the FS had “accurately addressed the scientific literature”. The word they used was “adequately”, meaning it doesn’t really matter if the agency was correct, only that the FS can simply look at the scientific literature, document their doing so, and then choose to ignore it, and the court will be satisfied. Was the agency right? Who knows? More important, the Ninth Circuit apparently doesn’t much care.. the court continues to travel down the path of abdication of scientific oversight.

    Sorry I can’t sign on to “Here’s to all the folks who worked on this case!!!”, not knowing which folks you’re referring to, but I’ll raise my glass to “those who continue to fight the uphill battle to keep the Forest Service honest.” Cheers!

  3. The dirty little secret of the myriad of Montana timber sale lawsuits…is they all end up getting logged eventually. The usual routine is… Judge finds for plaintiff, slaps on injunction, Garrity proclaims it’s a great victory for the lynx, USFS takes a year to “fix the remand” with a few paragraphs here, a few more pounds of paper there, throw in a few graphs and pie charts, maybe get a letter from USFWS concurring “may be present…but not likely to affect” (has there EVER been a case where the USFWS didn’t concur with a USFS Biological assessment?)…judge declares the project is now based on “sound science” and lifts injunction…USFS logs exact same acres that was in the project ROD. Need more research…but I can think of only two “fix the injunction-Supplemental EIS’s” that dropped acres. I don’t think throwing another 20 pages at “cumulative effects” reduces any “logged acres.” Of course, we do know the whole idea is to suck up man hours to produce fewer EIS’s…so perhaps that is a “great victory for the Lynx.”

    Frankly, I think if the public ever got wind of how piddly most of these “injunction fixes” were…it would take a lot of air out of the bombastic balloon (I do luv my alliterations—who can tell me who said “nattering nabobs of negativism” LOL)…especially if they knew it didn’t save one acre for the lynx (oops..my attorney wants me to put in a qualifier like “hardly or almost” so I don’t get a Pinocchio award). Frankly, niggling, nuances, and what your definition of the word “is’ is” comes to mind when I think of some of these fixes. Have you ever imagined Section 7 of the ESA up on your computer screen…and certain words and phrases are highlighted in blue…and when you clicked on them all the case law dealing with those words and phrases would pull down. No..I don’t really think that process is more important than the product…and I don’t think it’s economic development.

    It would appear that the USFS is getting better at bullet proofing these EIS’s…and the low hanging fruit of industry killing “slap an injunction on for 2 years till you inventory your old growth(Kootenai 2003)” silver bullet lawsuits is probably over for the eco lawyers. But I’m sure they’ll keep trying. BTW…can anyone tell me if the 9th circuit has ruled yet on the USFS appeal of Salix vs. Norton to get the 9th to overturn their own Pacific Rivers vs. Thomas ruling and get them in line with the Supreme Court? Even though Judge Christiansen didn’t enjoin R1 in the whole confusing re-initiate consultation because a NFMA forest plan is an agency action thing… I don’t think the USFS is logging in the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project. Whats the story with that.

  4. Well, when you look at who the litigants in the case are, you can see that they want an end to all salvage logging, and some want an end to all logging, even on private lands, everywhere. The scientific deference seems to be having an effect on some cases, like this salvage. The “owl defense” seems to have been a failure for the litigants in the last year. Owl presence in burned stands only verifies survival. Nothing else.

  5. Answers to Derek’s questions:

    I remember that there have been “non-concurrences” but I think most of them were done verbally. It is common for the agencies to discuss before anything gets put in writing.

    Spiro T. Agnew.

    Silence on Salix v. USFS (which I’ve been watching for since I was involved in it).

  6. The area within the Rim Fire is 275,000 acres and the acreage being treated is 16,000.
    That is about 1/2 %, which is typical for most fire salvage projects. I really don’t think there could be much adverse effect on the landscape.
    The fire was the adverse effect.
    Cost of fear of litigation has seriously harmed our ability to best manage our forests.

      • The real percentage should have unloggable portions subtracted, as well as having the roadside hazard tree acreage subtracted. Areas like PACs, the National Park, stream buffers, archaeological sites, etc, should not be included as loggable acres. Also there is a large amount of green forest (as well as non-forested areas) within the fire’s footprint. It does seem that there are some large pockets of mortality avoided by the USFS, for one reason, or another. Again, most of the old growth mortality is up in Yosemite.

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