Last July, we blogged about a lawsuit filed against the Forest Service challenging its reconstruction of the Green Mountain lookout within Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness.
A week ago, federal district judge John Coughenour ordered the Forest Service to remove the lookout. It wasn’t a particularly close call either: “The Forest Service erred egregiously by not conducting the required necessity analysis before embarking on such an aggressive course of action,” the judge wrote regarding the Forest Service’s decision “to fully disassemble the lookout, transport the pieces off-site by helicopter, construct a new foundation on site, fly new and restored lookout pieces back in to the site, and reassemble the lookout.”
The judge was unpersuaded that the National Historic Preservation Act was relevant, even though the lookout is on the national registry. He concluded the NHPA imposes procedural, not substantive, duties on the Forest Service and, thus, could not trump the Wilderness Act’s substantive preservation mandate.
However, he did find that “historical use” is a valid management goal under the Wilderness Act. Continuing the line of reasoning first adopted in FSEEE’s High Sierra Hikers case, he faulted the Forest Service for failing to assess whether maintaining the lookout in the wilderness and using helicopters to do so, were necessary to realize the lookout’s historical virtues. For example, he pointed to other historic lookouts that had been preserved by removing them from the wilderness and rebuilding them at ranger stations as visitor interpretative facilities.