The mantra I always use to hear was don’t use an EA if you might get sued. Maybe things are different now? Or maybe this was just one of those EAs that looked a lot like an EIS.
- The Project’s proposed treatment methods will retain all existing snags greater than 15 inches in diameter, “unless deemed a safety hazard by the purchaser, or in the case of a need to meet coarse woody debris (CWD) requirements.” Because the Project only removes snags in two limited circumstances, it was reasonable for USFS to conclude that treatment methods will not reduce snag numbers below Forest Plan standards.
- The Project’s Environmental Analysis considered a total of fourteen alternatives, five of which were discussed in detail. The USFS reasonably concluded that not treating 17% of the Project area would thwart the major purposes of the Project.
- USFS properly analyzed the cumulative impacts of the Project. The Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) Handbook does not require USFS to use the owl’s “natal dispersal” distance in its analysis.
- While the uncertain effect of fires in spotted owl foraging areas may cast doubt on some aspects of the Project, the Project’s anticipated effects as a whole are not highly uncertain and do not trigger the need for an EIS. Also, logging in designated critical habitat will be limited to areas that support lower-quality owl habitat—and no forest treatment will occur in nesting and roosting habitat. “We think USFS has provided a ‘convincing statement of reasons’ to explain why [the Project’s] impacts are insignificant.”
Conservation Congress v. U. S. Forest Service. March 31, 2017.