Here’s some news on three cases that we have followed recently:
- Tahoe e-bikes: Backcountry Horsemen of America v. U. S. Forest Service (E.D. Cal.)
This is the case where the Tahoe National Forest attempted to allow e-bikes on trails designated as open only to non-motorized uses (see the litigation summary here). In response to the lawsuit, the Forest rescinded the decision. They have now completed a new decision, the East Zone Connectivity Project, with the result that (according to this article in “Singletracks”) “35-miles of existing non-motorized trail will be open to class 1 e-bikes.” The Forest website reiterates that, “E-bike use is currently not allowed on NFS roads and trails unless they are designated for motor vehicle use.” (The only administrative objections to the new decision were later withdrawn.)
- Mendocino “roadside hazard trees:” EPIC v. Carlson (N.D. Cal.)
This was the case where the Ninth Circuit previously held that under no reasonable interpretation of the language of 36 C.F.R. § 220.6(d)(4) did the Ranch Fire Roadside Hazard Tree Project on the Mendocino National Forest come within the categorical exclusion for “repair and maintenance” of roads. After receiving a preliminary injunction (see the litigation summary here), the Forest Service agreed to abandon six commercial timber sales, but the settlement would allow them to remove hazard trees in the project area “for non-sawtimber primarily non-commercial purposes,” following specific hazard tree guidelines. (The article includes a link to the settlement agreement.) The Forest Service also agreed to pay $191,000 in attorney fees.
- Prince of Wales project: Southeast Alaska Conservation Council v. U. S. Forest Service (D. Alaska)
This is the case where the Ninth Circuit previously held that “condition-based NEPA,” which didn’t identify site-specific locations or effects, was invalid for the Prince Wales timber sale on the Tongass National Forest. (See our prior discussion of the case here.) This settlement dealt solely with attorney fees; the Forest Service agreed to pay $210,000 of the $301,000 in fees allegedly incurred by the plaintiffs.
(Blogger’s note: I see a pattern here. I wonder if it might make a difference, when an official is about to make a legally suspect decision, if their risk analysis would be different if this money came out their operating budget instead of a separate fund.)