NFS Litigation Weekly September 18 & 25, 2019

Forest Service summaries:  2019_09_18 and 25_Litigation Weekly_Email


The district court invalidated the biological opinion on Mexican spotted owls prepared by the FWS for forest plans for the Lincoln, Santa Fe, Cibola, Carson, and Gila National Forests in New Mexico, and the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.  Timber management actions on these forests have been enjoined.  (D. Ariz.)  (See other discussions on this blog here and here.)

The district court issued a preliminary injunction for the Twin Mountain Timber Sale, which is part of the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project on the Tongass National Forest, and involves the newly popular “condition-based analysis.”  (D. Alaska)  (We have discussed this case here.)

The district court granted the Forest Service’s motion for Summary Judgment regarding its Emergency Situation Determination for its decision to authorize the Cove Fire Salvage Project on the Modoc National Forest.  (E. D .Cal.)


The plaintiffs claim HUD violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when authorizing relief funds to the Forest Service for clear cutting activities and construction of a new biomass power plant utilizing the timber as feedstock following the 2013 Rim Fire on the Stanislaus National Forest.  (N. D. Cal.)


The parties have notified the Lincoln National Forest and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service of their intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act to reinitiate consultation to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse from grazing activities on two allotments.



Conservationists want a California judge to set aside Placer County’s approval of a 2.2-mile long gondola that would pass through the Tahoe national forest to connect the bases of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts. About 20% of the project, including five of the towers, would be located on the Tahoe National Forest near the Granite Chief Wilderness Area.  The project won preliminary approval from the Forest Service earlier this year and is awaiting final approval after 12 organizations and individuals objected to their draft record of decision.

Conservation groups and a Native American tribe have sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to challenge a key water permit allowing the PolyMet open-pit copper mine to move forward in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest.  Other related litigation was described here, here and here.

9 thoughts on “NFS Litigation Weekly September 18 & 25, 2019”

  1. “The plaintiffs claim HUD violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when authorizing relief funds to the Forest Service for clear cutting activities and construction of a new biomass power plant utilizing the timber as feedstock following the 2013 Rim Fire on the Stanislaus National Forest. (N. D. Cal.)”

    Just reading the foregoing summary is depressing. I’ll avoid finding and reading the complaint, since I should be controlling my blood pressure and/or gritting of teeth.

    I ask again (only rhetorically this time, and I appreciate prior answers): who funds these lawsuits?

  2. The link provided for each case is to a relevant court document, in this case the complaint (making it easier to raise your blood pressure).

  3. Thanks, Jon. I skimmed it and see that one plaintiff is an outfit grandiloquently calling itself the “Sequoia Forestkeeper.”

    I’m not sure which is funnier: the lack of imagination of these outfits that recycle the same nomenclature, or the sheer pomposity of the names they give themselves.

    I’m reminded of those suburbs whose street names show their developer’s narrowness of imagination and hewing to stereotypes: Grassy Knoll Lane, Night Owl Court, Lamplighter Crescent, etc.

    • Ironic, isn’t it, that an anonymous commenter who gave themselves the “grandiloquent” fake name “Lourenço Marques” makes such a stink about the name of non-profit groups fighting to protect the environment and forests? Then again, the much espoused singular focus of the “Sustainable Trails Coalition” is to weaken and amend the Wilderness Act to allow bicycles and other wheeled contraptions into designated Wilderness. But since “Lourenço Marques” is likely connected to the “Sustainable Trails Coalition” he doesn’t have a big beef with that “grandiloquent” name.

  4. I like the name “Sustainable Trails Coalition.” It seems fitting to me. When mountain biking in Wilderness is legally restored, mountain bikers will be making Wilderness trails available for public use again, by the kind and quantity of volunteer maintenance work that mountain biking groups alone do.

    Countless Wilderness trails have been lost, thanks to Forest Service mismanagement (no chainsaws allowed; trivial projects must undergo Kafkaesque NEPA navel-gazing).

    I suspect this lack of access doesn’t bother people like Matt. Short of the ultimate dream of a massive human die-off, at least the human infestation must be kept out of our sacred Wilderness cathedrals.

    • RE: Your claim that “Countless Wilderness trails have been lost, thanks to Forest Service mismanagement (no chainsaws allowed; trivial projects must undergo Kafkaesque NEPA navel-gazing).”

      Well, that assumes that at one point, those Forest Service trails were not “lost” but were well-established and well-maintained…and wouldn’t you know it? That was all done without the use of chainsaws in Wilderness.

      I’m not aware of any basic, annual USFS trail maintenance that supposedly “must undergo Kafkaesque NEPA navel-gazing.” The lack of trail maintenance in recent years has zero to do with NEPA and actually zero to do with chainsaws not being allowed in Wilderness.

      Congress has defunded the agency. And even when the USFS is given funding for various stewardship efforts, it seems as if the USFS would rather not put the money back on the ground to maintain trails. I thought George Nickas from Wilderness Watch explained the current situation pretty well over at this post:

      The regional forester’s rationale – not enough trail crews to clear trails the traditional way – was essentially an admission that the Forest Service has failed to maintain an adequately staffed wilderness program. At a moment’s notice, the agency routinely assembles hundreds of firefighters, planes and heavy equipment to attack even a small wildfire, but from its nearly 30,000-plus employees and $5 billion budget, it can’t pull together a handful of trained trail crews to help clear the trails in the Weminuche and South San Juan wildernesses.

      Why is that?

      About two decades ago, the Forest Service effectively abandoned its wilderness program and outsourced the job to volunteers.

      It began by diverting wilderness funds to pay the salaries of desk-bound bureaucrats, putting “wilderness” in their job descriptions to make the transfer seem legit. But the main effort was on creating “partnerships” with volunteer groups to mask that the wilderness program was being gutted.

      So today, while many wildernesses have volunteer “friends” groups trying to keep trails open or plug holes elsewhere, the agency’s program of a professionally trained and skilled field-going wilderness force has – to borrow a phrase from Bob Marshall – faded like a south-facing snowbank under a June sun.

      • We can agree that the Forest Service suffers from bureaucratic problems. But the Forest Service itself has warned Congress and the public that it’s being forced to transform itself into a firefighting agency and is having to all but abandon recreation. At least that it was its view in 2015:

        (This is an excellent report and worth people’s time to read if they haven’t already.)

        Given that, it seems reasonable to rely on volunteers. They’re cheaper.

        Also given that, it seems unreasonable for the Forest Service to insist on retaining its strange Wilderness trail maintenance rule that allows only inefficient methods that would have been familiar to Charlemagne. By most accounts (some people disagree), allowing chainsaws and wheelbarrows to maintain Wilderness trails would go a long way to keeping them open.

    • P.S. I live the name Sequoia ForestKeeper. I also like the name “Great Old Broads for Wilderness.”

      What I don’t really care for is your anonymous, and somewhat misogynist, statement “was there ever a more embarrassing name for an organization?….And how many of GOBFW members are there? I’d bet a few dozen at the most. I bet it’s a Potemkin village. I wonder who funds it.”

      By the way, anyone in the world (but apparently not anonymous-posting “Lourenço Marques” – can go right to the Great Old Broads for Wilderness and see that their official 990 tax forms are clearly listed for review. Also, anyone can see that they have 8,500 members, which is considerable more than “a few dozen at the most.”

      • Fair enough on the Great Old Broads for Wilderness membership figure and organizational nature. The former is asserted on its website and looks accurate, judging by the latest form 990. It clearly isn’t a Potemkin village. I welcome being corrected anytime I’m wrong.


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