The Sierra Club filed the lawsuit to stop construction of the U.S. 70 Havelock bypass in North Carolina. According to their attorneys, “The important thing here is that this part of the forest is one of the prime examples still of what used to be a very common landscape in the coastal plain, which is the longleaf pine savannas, so there are parts of the forest that would be destroyed with the proposed bypass and that have intact, 100-year-old longleaf pine savannas that have good ground cover and are in good condition and that provide habitat for species like the red-cockaded woodpecker.” They argue that there were feasible alternatives that weren’t considered.
The defendant is apparently the Federal Highway Administration, and the Forest Service isn’t mentioned at all. There is a different set of laws governing federal highway projects, but they don’t exempt the FHA from NFMA’s requirement that “instruments for use and occupancy of National Forest System lands shall be consistent with the land management plans.” The Croatan forest plan (2002) actually mentions this bypass proposal as an example of “requests for permits that serve a public benefit.”
There was no reference to this project on the Croatan website, but the FHA ROD discusses six issues raised by plaintiffs regarding consistency with the forest plan, finding them all to be without merit. It talks about Forest Service participation in the project planning process and off-site mitigation elements, neither of which directly address the question of what the forest plan requirements for this area are. It did mention that “some portions of the easement that would be transferred to NCDOT for the bypass are designated black bear sanctuary.” How would a four-lane expressway be consistent with that? There is something wrong with this process if it does not require the Forest Service to directly address the NFMA consistency requirement for highway permits.