Collaborative Groups as Friends of the Court?

In terms of what Mike said here about other groups (such as collaborative groups) filing in lawsuits as friends of the court, I would think that if it works for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, it would work for local collaborative groups (if they could afford attorneys, or perhaps law students could volunteer to support these groups). Hopefully, more knowledgeable people can tell me if I am barking up the wrong tree here.

Here’s the link.

Bay Foundation, others can join restoration suit
By ALEX DOMINGUEZ Associated Press​
Posted: 10/13/2011 02:49:17 PM MDT
Updated: 10/13/2011 03:45:13 PM MDT

BALTIMORE—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other groups can join a court fight over bay restoration efforts, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Thursday.

The bay advocacy group, other environmental organizations and associations representing sewer authorities asked to side with the federal Environmental Protection Agency​ as defendants in the suit. The American Farm Bureau Federation sued the EPA in January over the stricter federally led effort and other groups have since joined the challenge. Critics say it is too far-reaching and will burden states with huge costs.

U.S. District Sylvia H. Rambo said the groups may help settle the complex case.

“In fact, given the complexity and voluminous size of the administrative record, which includes scientific models, the court finds that the presence of the intervenors may serve to clarify issues and, perhaps, contribute to resolution of this matter,” Rambo said in her order.

A telephone call by The Associated Press seeking comment from the American Farm Bureau Federation was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

Foundation attorney Jon Mueller said the groups were “looking forward to arguing this case in order to ensure that Bay restoration moves forward, and that all do their part to reduce pollution.”

The other environmental groups joining the foundation in the motion were Penn Future, Defenders of Wildlife, the Jefferson County Public Service District, the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and the National Wildlife Federation. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents sewer authorities nationwide, also sought to intervene with state sewer authority associations. The head of the association said in May that his organization has some concerns about the EPA’s strategy, but is much more concerned with attempts by the plaintiffs to walk away from the process.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker accused the plaintiffs on Thursday of trying to halt the restoration process.

“The effort to derail Bay restoration must be stopped, here and now,” Baker said. “We are pleased we can be part of defending the Bay restoration effort and are confident that the court will uphold the public’s right to clean water.”

The EPA’s strategy puts everyone in the six-state bay watershed on a “pollution diet” with daily limits for how much sediment and runoff can come from each area. Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, auto and power plant emissions cause oxygen-robbing algae blooms once they reach the bay, creating dead zones where sea life can’t live.

Farmers and agriculture interests are concerned about the strategy because agriculture is the single largest source of bay pollutants, according to the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay model. While agriculture has made gains in reducing bay pollution, the strategy calls for even more reductions from all sectors.


3 thoughts on “Collaborative Groups as Friends of the Court?”

  1. For whatever this information is worth, below are the copies of the two letters the Lolo Restoration Committee sent in to the Forest Service for the Colt Summit project. You’ll notice the letters are short (one to two pages) and don’t really offer much substance, other than repeating a lot of glad-handing and back-slapping. It’s somewhat interested to compare these official letters from the Lolo Restoration Committee with the much more detailed, substantive letters sent in during the entire EA process by the likes of Alliance for Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan.

    Regarding the larger issue of “collaborative” groups filing friend of the court briefs, I’d like to point out that the Co-Chair of the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative is Deb Austin, Supervisor of the Lolo National Forest. I’m not sure how the federal court system would feel about a friend of the court brief coming from a “collaborative” group chaired by the Supervisor of the National Forest that’s being sued. Anyway, those are just message details I guess.

    January 12, 2011

    Tim Love, District Ranger
    Seeley Lake Ranger District
    3583 Highway 83
    Seeley Lake, MT 59868

    Re: Comments on the Colt Summit Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project

    Dear Mr. Love:

    Please accept this letter regarding the Colt Summit Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project
    (hereinafter “the project”) on behalf of the Lolo National Forest Restoration Committee (LRC).
    In addition to offering these comments on the EA, we would also like to thank you and your staff
    for offering the LRC multiple presentations, site visits and extensive background information
    during this ongoing collaborative effort.

    First, we would like to thank you for providing LRC members with a field trip and multiple
    presentations on this proposed project. We would also like to reiterate the LRC’s belief that the
    goals of the project are consistent with the Montana Forest Restoration Committee (MFRC)
    principles and that it has a high potential for restoration, monitoring, and adaptive management.
    Further, we believe the project has the potential to be highly consistent with the goals of the
    Southwestern Crown Collaborative.

    We appreciate the Seeley District’s proposed use of appropriate and varied tools to enhance
    ecological and recreational values in the project area, including road decommissioning and rerouting,
    fish barrier removal and replacement, prescribed fire, thinning, and conducting the
    majority of vegetative treatments during winter months. We believe this mix of treatments, as
    depicted on the project map, will improve fish and wildlife habitat, enhance stream water quality,
    reduce fuel loads to historic levels, and improve soil quality and nutrient cycling.

    In addition to highlighting these strengths, we offer a number of comments below intended to
    strengthen the project. We believe that the monitoring component of this project can be
    significantly improved. There was no mention of effectiveness monitoring in the EA. Affirming
    that effectiveness monitoring is planned, and explaining how it will be conducted, is necessary in
    order to fully apply an adaptive management approach.

    Describing in more detail this project’s relationship with the MFRC’s monitoring approach and
    Southwestern Crown Monitoring Committee, including roles and responsibilities relative to
    monitoring this project, will also improve the likelihood of successful monitoring and adaptive
    management. Specifically, we request that you fully develop and describe in detail an
    effectiveness monitoring program that will be consistent with the MFRC’s Monitoring and
    Adaptive Management Strategy ( and the
    monitoring protocols developed by the SW Crown Collaborative.

    In addition to the road decommissioning activities described in the documents made available to
    us, we respectfully request that you provide the LRC with more information regarding the pros
    and cons of removing all culverts and other fish passage barriers from the existing Colt Creek
    Road (#646) route. We also request that you provide the LRC with additional information
    regarding the costs and benefits of completely removing the road prism in areas where its
    continued existence would pose a long-term risk of slope failure and erosion into the creek.
    As appropriate, please also consider including precommercial thinning of overstocked,
    previously managed stands in the project area.


    /s/ Pam Gardiner
    Scott Brennan, Co-Chair Pam Gardiner, Co-Chair
    Lolo Restoration Committee Lolo Restoration Committee
    Megan Birzell, Chair
    Seeley Working Group of the LRC


    Lolo Restoration Committee

    November 16, 2010

    Tim Love, District Ranger
    Seeley Lake Ranger District
    3583 Highway 83
    Seeley Lake MT 59868

    Dear Tim,

    Please accept this letter as the first formal comment from the Lolo Restoration Committee (LRC) on the Colt-
    Summit Fuel Reduction and Restoration Project. These preliminary comments are based on the information that
    is currently available regarding the potential for fuel reduction and forest restoration activities at Colt-Summit,
    including the presentations, field trip, and written documentation you have provided to LRC members in recent
    months. Thank you very much for devoting a significant amount of your time and your staff resources to
    educating LRC members regarding this project area and your restoration goals.

    After an initial assessment, including a site visit and review of information provided by you and your staff, we
    believe that the goals of the Colt-Summit project are consistent with the Montana Forest Restoration Committee
    (MFRC) principles and that Colt-Summit has a high potential for restoration, monitoring and adaptive
    management. Furthermore, we are committed to working with you to ensure that the final project design,
    implementation and monitoring are consistent with the MFRC principles as well as the Southwestern Crown of
    the Continent (SW Crown) Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project (CFLRP) proposal and landscape

    As you know, the Lolo Restoration Committee has endorsed the SW Crown CFLRP proposal and strategy. We
    understand that Colt-Summit is an integral part of FY11 and FY12 work for the SW Crown and this provides us
    with additional motivation to work closely with you, your staff and all of our collaborative partners to ensure that
    Colt-Summit is a successful demonstration of forest restoration and fuel reduction consistent with the MFRC
    principles and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. At this time, in addition to committing
    to working with you as the project moves forward, we are also requesting more information regarding the
    monitoring and adaptive management planned at Colt-Summit and we specifically ask that you emphasize multiparty
    effectiveness monitoring in addition to the standard implementation monitoring.

    We hope that this letter will be one more positive step in a productive dialogue that will continue through all
    phases of project design, NEPA, implementation and post-treatment monitoring. Please also accept our thanks for
    considering the Montana Forest Restoration Principles in project design at Colt- Summit and for your
    commitment to working with the LRC as this project moves forward.

    Thanks again for your work on this project and please let us know when the next opportunity to learn more about
    this project and to provide input to your staff arises.

    Scott Brennan Pam Gardiner
    LRC Co-Chair LRC Co-Chair

    • Matthew,
      I was thinking more broadly… many collaborative groups do not have FS people as members or co-chairs.

      If I had students or a class, I would develop a table of comments on different topics associated with these groups and try to tease out the similarities and differences. I think it would be a great learning experience for students. Any takers from U of Montana faculty/students, since the project is in Montana?

      E.g. Topic Monitoring

      Group A wants more monitoring of x at a different spatial scale
      Group B wamts….

  2. A few years ago, I was chatting with a group composed of several loggers, the Forest Service Representative (FSR) and the local Sierra Pacific mill representative. I asked the group, where are the mill’s lawyers in all these lawsuits against salvage sales? Everyone looked at one another but there was no answer from any of them. However, there was a spark of interest and wonderment.

    I think it was earlier this year when it was decided that stakeholders could join on the side of the government in lawsuits. I see this as a double-edged sword but, it makes sense to not exclude people who might be impacted by court’s decisions.


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