R.I.P. Saw Brigade

In another old case …

The Supreme Court has left in place a lower court ruling that prevents New Mexico from greenlighting tree clearing on federal land in the state in the name of fire prevention.

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a dispute between New Mexico and the federal government.

The issue dates back to 2001 when New Mexico passed a law saying the U.S. Forest Service had failed to reduce the threat of forest fires by not clearing undergrowth and removing trees on Forest Service land. The law then gave counties in the state permission to do the work.

When Otero County moved to cut trees on land in the Lincoln National Forest without federal approval in 2011, the United States government sued. Lower courts sided with the federal government.


1 thought on “R.I.P. Saw Brigade”

  1. Thanks for this post Jon.

    In 2009, republicans in the Montana State Legislature tried something similar.

    They had a bill (SB.34), which would’ve was specifically targeting U.S. Forest Service lands, which had “the natural accumulation of fuel for fire that poses a threat to public health or safety into the definition of ‘community decay’ extending the authority of a county to enforce a community decay ordinance.”

    I was the only environmental group representative in the hearing room to testify agains the bill. Other groups, like Montana Wilderness Association and the National Wildlife Federation, were too busy ‘collaborating’ with their timber partners on Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill (the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act) to bother with testifying publicly against SB.34.

    The U.S. Forest Service also testified strongly in opposition to this bill, basically telling the Legislative Committee that if the bill passed, the U.S. Government would sue, and the U.S. Government would win. Seems like that’s true based on Jon’s post here.

    Anyway, what struck me was how the Montana timber industry supported the bill. In fact, I remember Ellen Simpson with the Montana Wood Products Association giving testimony in favor of the bill, which included her reading off all the names of timber mills in Montana that had closed since 1990. Of course, most all those mills closed because of corporate mergers, or mismanagement, or the Asian Market Crisis, or NAFTA, or other global economic factors, including the Great Recession of 2005 to 2009.

    I remember getting up to speak after the Montana Wood Products Association lobbyist and I was literally dumbfounded that the head timber industry lobbyist in Montana and head of the MT Wood Products Association was essentially favoring a bill to just declare wide swaths of public U.S. Forest Service lands “community decay” and have counties just start illegally logging those lands and running illegally cut National Forest trees through their mills.


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