I’m following up on Jon’s idea that laws help us figure out what are “right” decisions. I think the O&C story is a illustration of how the laws’ interpretation by the courts can be not particularly helpful if a decision has to be made in real time (that is, before the end of litigation, appeals and so on.) I know many TSW readers know a great deal about this..so hopefully can give us additional information and perspective. Here’s a link to this op-ed in the Mail-Tribune (from Medford? Hard to tell from website).
A federal judge’s ruling that 40,000 acres of former Oregon & California Railroad lands in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument must remain in timber production is far from the last word on this question, and even if it is eventually upheld, it would affect only a portion of monument land and perhaps much less than the 40,000 acres in the ruling.
Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled in a case filed by the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group. The AFRC argued that the expansion of the monument declared by President Barack Obama in 2017 improperly overturned the intent of Congress when it passed the O&C Act in 1937, designating more than 2 million acres of forest in 18 Western Oregon counties for sustainable timber production. Congress had granted title to the lands in 1866 to the railroad company as incentive to complete the Oregon portion of the Portland to San Francisco railroad. When the company failed to sell the land to settlers as required, Congress took it back in 1916, and added more acres from a similar land grant in 1919. The O&C Act placed all those lands under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management for permanent forest production.
This E&E News story is also interesting with more legal details..
Here’s AFRC’s side of the story (from their newsletter):
In late 2019, the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. issued favorable rulings in two major cases enforcing the O&C Act. (October and November 2019 newsletters). The Swanson III case seeks to
require BLM to offer its declared allowable sale quantity (ASQ) each year, which is one of the mandates of the O&C Act. The other case involves challenges led by AFRC and the Association of O&C Counties to the 2016 Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for western Oregon BLM lands.
Judge Leon ruled in September, “Every year, BLM is required to sell or offer for sale an amount of timber that is not less than the declared annual sustained yield capacity of the timberland subject to the O&C Act.” He also found that “the record establishes that BLM has repeatedly failed to comply with the O&C Act’s timber sale mandate.” In November, he ruled that the 2016 RMPs violated the O&C Act’s mandate that all O&C timberlands “shall be managed” for “permanent forest production” under sustained yield principles. This is because the RMPs set aside 80% of the land base into “reserves” where harvest is severely curtailed.
The court instructed the parties to file proposals in these cases as to the appropriate remedy, which were submitted on January 27. The plaintiffs’ proposal, incorporating both Swanson III and the RMP challenges, involves preparation of an amended or revised plan, an ongoing requirement to sell the ASQ, and interim direction on volume while the plan is being reviewed. The government’s proposals ask in large part for the Court to return BLM to an open-ended administrative process while keeping the existing plans in place. Response briefs will be filed in late February and a final order could be issued any time after that.
In the November ruling, Judge Leon also invalidated President Obama’s expansion of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument that encompassed about 40,000 acres of O&C lands. Both the government
and intervening environmental groups have appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, also called the “D.C. Circuit.” Resolution of the appeal is likely to take at least 12-15 months.
Does anyone know why the “government” chose to appeal the decision?