Here’s the press release from Alliance for the Wild Rockies…. – mk
“The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Idaho Sporting Congress, and Native Ecosystems Council to stop the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek Timber sale in the Payette National Forest in western Idaho,” announced Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “We are very pleased that the decision halts the Forest Service’s plan to log approximately 40,000 acres and burn 45,000 more acres in the New Meadows Ranger District.”
“We won today because the Forest Service tried to change existing Forest Plan standards so it could proceed with a massive logging project,” Garrity said. “It’s especially important because Boulder Creek is a tributary to the Little Salmon River and the headwaters of the West Fork of the Weiser River and the area is designated Critical Habitat for bull trout recovery.”
Reversing the district court, the Ninth Circuit Court held that the Forest Service’s decision to approve the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek Project was “arbitrary and capricious” and “constituted a violation of the National Forest Management Act.” Specifically, the Court held that the Forest Service had proposed to manage the forest in a manner that was clearly inconsistent with the Payette Forest Plan and that the agency had improperly adopted a new definition of “old forest habitat” for the Lost Creek Project area. The panel instructed the district court to vacate the Forest Service’s September 2014 Record of Decision and send the proposal back to the Forest Service to comply with the law and Forest Plan.
A Big Win for Taxpayers, Clean Water and Bull Trout
“We also challenged the Forest Service’s failure to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the endangered bull trout” Garrity explained. “But while the lawsuit was pending before the Ninth Circuit, the Forest Service decided to reinitiate consultation for the bull trout over its entire range, including the Payette National Forest. Since that’s precisely what we wanted them to do in accordance with the Endangered Species Act when we took the case to district court, the issue was ruled moot by the Ninth Circuit decision but was definitely a win for bull trout.”
“Additionally, the Forest Service estimated that the project would have cost taxpayers a whopping $12,429,619,” Garrity said. “In essence, the Forest Service decided it was more important to subsidize the timber industry with this huge money-losing timber sale in federally-designated bull trout Critical Habitat than it is to recover bull trout as legally-required by the Endangered Species Act.”
“The principal reason bull trout habitat is trashed on the west side of the Payette Forest is Forest Service mismanagement through logging, road-building and overgrazing,” said Ron Mitchell of Idaho Sporting Congress. “This project continues the Forest Service tradition of irresponsible habitat destruction in spite of the fact that the agency’s former fisheries biologist, Dave Burns, wrote in the first Forest Plan that trout habitat on the west side is 50 percent below habitat capacity. The new roads and clearcutting would have reduced remaining habitat even further.”
“Much of the ‘mitigation’ promised by the Forest Service in the form of road-closures after the logging,” Mitchell said. “But the Payette has no record of successful road closures and no reliable monitoring system. We checked their top ten road closures and eight of them were wide open while the other two were easily driven around.”
“We’re glad the Ninth Circuit agreed with us on this project,” Garrity concluded. “It’s always tough to take the federal government to court. But this project would have cost taxpayers millions of dollars, would have resulted in more sedimentation of vital spawning streams, and resulted in fewer bull trout, salmon, and steelhead for present and future generations.”
Find a copy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion here.