Colville Tribes sues BIA/Interior for damages from 2015 wildfires

From the Spokesman-Review:

Colville Tribes sue U.S. government, seeking damages for failure to manage forests that burned in massive 2015 wildfires

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government on Wednesday, alleging federal agencies failed to fulfill their legally required duties before, during and after the 2015 wildfires that burned more than 240,000 acres and turned parts of the reservation into a “moonscape.”

The Colville Tribes, whose approximately 9,500 members rely heavily on timber revenue and other natural resources, are seeking compensation from the federal government after the 2015 fires destroyed roughly 20% of the commercial timber on the reservation. But Andrew Joseph, Jr., chairman of the Colville Business Council, said the damage extended far beyond the lost revenue.

Under federal law, the U.S. government is responsible for managing forest health and providing adequate firefighting resources on land it holds in trust on behalf of Native American tribes. The Colville Tribes’ suit alleges the government knew it needed to make forests on their reservation less susceptible to severe fire by thinning trees and conducting controlled burns, and that its failure to do so “led to tinderbox conditions in which catastrophic fire was inevitable.”

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