Next Step on Colt Summit- Complaint

Thanks to Matthew Koehler for sending this brief that was filed Friday.

. I think it’s great to watch a single project go through appeals and litigation. We can also ask the question “how do we think it would be different if we had an objection process instead?

I’m still trying to glean what if anything the plaintiffs would want changed about the project except increasing the buffers and not cutting any trees (but if you don’t cut you don’t need to increase the buffers..). Here’s a link to my previous effort to find that out. I think in an objection process, people could object to the process, but it might also encourage people to put their cards on the table about what they want. If the plaintiffs win this lawsuit, we are likely to get more pages of analysis and at the end of the day another lawsuit if there are activities that the plaintiffs don’t want. I think there is a strong desire by many to “cut to the chase”; I still think that court-ordered mediation would be a good experiment. We tend to use analysis as a stalking horse for real disagreements that should be publicly vetted and discussed. Not in a backroom where settlements are negotiated. In my opinion.

Under the ESA, this means the Forest Service must ensure the physical and
biological factors that qualified the area for critical habitat designation remain
functional. See Ex. F. Activities that may adversely modify lynx critical habitat
include those that “reduce or remove understory vegetation within boreal forest
stands on a scale proportionate to the large landscape used by lynx.” M16-
28:15018. These activities may include, but are not limited to, logging projects
like Colt Summit that involve “forest stand thinning, timber harvest, and fuels
treatment of forest stands.” Id.

Am I reading this wrong or is this saying that there should be no fuels treatment in critical habitat? I have a vague memory that there might have been a percentage allowed in the decision northern rockies lynx decision. Also what does “on a scale proportionate to the large landscape used by lynx” mean?

It’s interesting that the idea that lynx or grizzly habitat may be better off if fires don’t run through the habitat does not appear to be a consideration. Our system of laws seems to have the implicit presupposition that “everything will be fine for species if we just don’t do any human intervention.” Not sure that that accurately reflects the real world under climate change.

5 thoughts on “Next Step on Colt Summit- Complaint”

  1. Hello Sharon: Yesterday I sent you a copy of the opening brief for the Colt Summit, which was filed on Friday and is now a public document. However, unless I’m missing it, I don’t see the PDF copy of the brief anywhere here. Thanks.

  2. Now the brief is there…thanks for making the correction. I’d highly encourage those interested to read the actual brief instead of just making assumptions, as happens from time to time.

  3. Wow. It’s amazing how easily the FS can screw up. I think, after reading the brief, they have them on process alone. All of the other resource issues might be non-issues, but contracting the FONSI prior to EA completion? Seriously?

    It’s had to feel bad for the USFS sometimes.

  4. Remember, we’ll get to hear “the other side of the story” from the other lawyers as the next step. In the past, I’ve seen appeals where the appellants made things sound much worse than it really was. That’s their job and they’re good at it. I’m not saying that the FS is perfect, nor that they were in this case, but that the story may look different when both sides have weighed in.


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