- WildlandsDefense_v_Seesholtz – Challenge to the North and South Pioneer Salvage and Reforestation Projects on the Boise NF for its analysis of bull trout, including ESA consultation, and for compliance with forest plan standards for soils and salvage harvesting. (D. Idaho)
- EarthIslandInstitute_v_Elliott – Challenge to the Bull Run Roadside Hazard Tree Mitigation Project for the Cedar Fire area on the Sequoia NF for failing to prepare an EA or EIS while exceeding the acreage in the timber salvage categorical exclusion and adversely affecting species listed under ESA. The adjacent Spear Creek Roadside Hazard Tree Mitigation Project is also an issue. (E.D. Cal.)
- Cal_v_BLM – BLM was not allowed to postpone compliance dates for its new natural gas venting regulations. (N.D. Cal.)
- Or Nat Desert Assn v USFS – Grazing authorizations on the Malheur NF had little or no harmful effect on bull trout and did not violate the forest plan or the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. (D. Or.)
- FDE v USFS – Plaintiffs assert that the State of Florida is occupying land on the Ocala NF with the Kirkpatrick Dam/Eureka Lock in violation of a permit that expired in 2002. (M.D. Fla.)
Blogger’s opinion on Oregon Natural Desert Association v. USFS
The Forest Service summary of this case includes the following bullet: “Forest Plan standards were narrative and qualitative and essentially aspirations and not judicially enforceable.”
This might lead some in the agency to think that writing standards like this is a good idea. Bad idea. Under the 2012 Planning Rule, such a qualitative “standard” would not meet the definition of “standard,” which is a “mandatory constraint,” not something that is “aspirational” (the latter term was actually used here by the Forest Service; however, the agency has rejected purely “aspirational” forest plans as they were defined by the 2005 and 2008 planning regulations). Without such mandatory standards, a forest plan would be unlikely to meet plan-level requirements to protect at-risk species. Among the qualitative “standards” dismissed by this court were ones that used the words “necessary habitat” and “sufficient streamside vegetation,” which unfortunately resemble many being that are being proposed in ongoing revisions of forest plans. In this case, the forest plan was not an issue because it had been amended with INFISH, which does include standards with mandatory language to protect at-risk fish.
Without language that contains ‘a clear indication of binding commitment’ (language from another cited case), a forest plan would also not be viewed as a regulatory mechanism that could support delisting a species. Here the Forest Service and the court relied heavily on the view of the Fish and Wildlife Service. In particular, “For each allotment, the Bi-Op, based on the Forest Service’s 2012 BAs, prescribed conditions for grazing.” The Forest Service is letting the FWS manage the national forest, which makes it hard for them to make a case for delisting. A better forest plan (which shored up the known weaknesses of INFISH) could help them do that.