The Forest Service summaries are here: Litigation Weekly October 16 2020 Email
Links for individual cases are to related documents.
North Dakota v. United States of America (D. N.D.). The court agreed with McKenzie County that several roads were established as county roads by 20 years of public use under R.S. 2477 and N.D.C.C. § 24-07-01 prior to the federal government reacquiring the underlying lands in the later 1930s.
NOTICES OF INTENT
Three conservation groups have asserted that the Rim Fire Project on the Stanislaus National Forest requires reinitiation of consultation under ESA to address impacts on the Pacific fisher, which was federally listed on May 15, 2020.
WildEarth Guardians and Conservation Northwest are threatening to sue the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service for failure to formally consult on the modification to the vehicle class use designations and the motor vehicle use maps for the Colville National Forest because it authorizes increased vehicle traffic, which would affect listed species.
- Snake River dams
In late September, federal agencies operating dams on the Columbia River issued a decision on operations that did not include removing the dams. They had made similar decisions in 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2016, and they were sued and lost each time. While another lawsuit is possible, there are signs that governors of Northwest states, particularly Democrats in Oregon and Washington, are looking for a negotiated solution. In the broader arena of renewable energy, there is a new agreement among some conservationists and hydropower producers to work together on planning for the role of hydropower in mitigating climate change. Leaving more dams in place in salmon habitat affects national forest management because it puts more of a burden on addressing other threats to salmon, such as roads and logging in spawning habitat. In fact, part of the broader agreement is to “Advance Effective River Restoration through Improved Off-Site Mitigation Strategies.”
PacifiCorp, one of the Northwest’s biggest private utilities, faces a class action lawsuit for allegedly failing to maintain power lines that caused a significant portion of the catastrophic Labor Day wildfires in Oregon. An attorney for plaintiffs said the weather and fire conditions across the state amounted to the perfect storm, but PacifiCorp had plenty of time to safely shut off power to prevent sparking more wildfires. Presumably the federal government will take a similar approach for damages and costs to national forests.
Mark Allen James, 23, of Twin Falls, Idaho, repeatedly harvested timber from the Deadline Ridge Summer Home area of the Sawtooth National Forest without a lawfully obtained permit to do so. James would sell the illegally obtained timber online. He confessed to harvesting twelve cords of firewood and selling it for $140 per cord. James was sentenced in U.S. District Court to three years of probation for theft of government property, and was required to pay $1,680 in restitution.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Forest Service for failing to release its audit of Tongass National Forest timber sales, which was requested last year.
- Wildlife Services
WildEarth Guardians has sued USDA Wildlife Services for failing to prepare an EIS for its activities in New Mexico, which include almost one million acres of national forest lands, and for relying on outdated EAs. The Forest Service has an MOU with Wildlife Services that discusses NEPA compliance for wildlife damage, invasive species, and wildlife disease management activities.