Litigation Weekly Nov. 9

(No new court decisions)

Litigation Weekly Nov 9

The Los Padres Forest Watch claims that the Los Padres NF has failed to manage target shooting as required by the forest plan, and failed to reinitiate consultation on the plan (for effects on California condors) and therefore is violating ESA.

5 Comments

  1. What I think is interesting about this is this quote from the EIS:

    Shooting of animals and plants; vegetation disturbance and destruction; mortality of individuals by off-route driving; litter (nuisance species/ingestion of plastic/animal entrapment); noise disturbance leading to short-term displacement; Cleared parking/shooting areas contribute to soil erosion and sedimentation; Disturbance and abandonment of habitat; Erosion and sedimentation from heavily utilized shooting lanes; Habitat loss from invasive nonnative plants in disturbed areas; Trampling of plants and animals; Increased threat of destructive wildland fires; and Lead shot poisoning with animal consumption.” 2005 EIS, vol. 2, p. 96.

    Other than shooting (of plants???) and lead poisoning, those impacts could also occur with dispersed camping along roads or any backcountry walking around, horseback riding, biking or camping. And off-route driving would have equal environmental effects if people were shooting or not. Target shooting can be a problem, but going after it through environmental laws could open the door to keeping out any kind of recreational use- if these arguments are taken at face value.

  2. This case is about failing to implement a closure that was assumed in the forest plan effects analysis, rather than the NEPA question of whether effects of dispersed recreation have been analyzed. But you bring up an interesting question – how does a land management agency decide that dispersed recreation may occur, so that the effects may be properly evaluated before they make that decision? While it is clear from the Planning Rule that there must be a project decision to close an area, there has not been much discussion of what it takes to “open” an area. By challenging forest plan consultation, these plaintiffs seem have taken the position that the forest plan is that decision. I haven’t really looked for this, but I would be surprised if there is often much discussion of the effects of dispersed recreation in forest plan EISs. On the other hand, is someone likely to sue to stop “dispersed camping along roads or any backcountry walking around, horseback riding, biking or camping?

    • By law, the national forests are open for dispersed recreation unless closed by order. In other words, “open” is the default; no decision necessary. Here’s how the FS’s rules operate to achieve this result. Every national forest use requires a special use permit unless the use is a “noncommercial recreational activities, such as camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, and horseback riding, or for noncommercial activities involving the expression of views, such as assemblies, meetings, demonstrations, and parades.” Thus, the national forests are closed to all uses, without the FS’s affirmative permission, unless the use is dispersed recreation, which requires no permission. Note, however, the FS can regulate dispersed recreation, e.g., ban nudity.

  3. It seems the current attitude of the FS service around here is to discourage use of our forests.
    Dispersed camping is often discouraged with the placement of large rocks at those possible camping sites.
    Many roads have been gated or destroyed, or very poorly maintained.
    Campgrounds have been closed.
    Access to huge areas of our NFs here in Southern Oregon are still closed to the public due to the fires this year and may remain closed for the foreseeable future.
    Seems like the FS has the ability to keep us out of our woods if they so choose, and are they seem to choosing to do so more and more often. Have they forgotten that these are public forests?

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