Court Rules in Favor of Forest Service’s Approval of Post-Fire Logging and Restoration Project

May 8th, 2012

By: Tina Thomas



In Earth Island Institute v. Carlton, (2012) 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44177, petitioner challenged a logging and restoration project under the National Forest Management Act (“NFMA”) and the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). The district court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff makes four central arguments for why Defendants violated NEPA in the preparation of the Revised Final Environmental Impact Statement: (1) the USFS failed to ensure the scientific accuracy and integrity of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and failed to disclose its methodology; (2) the USFS failed to meaningfully respond to dissenting scientific opinion in the EIS; (3) the USFS failed to take a hard look at the impacts of the project on the Black-Backed Woodpecker; and (4) the USFS failed to prepare a supplemental EIS in light of a new study on Black-Backed Woodpecker viability. The court found no clear error that rendered the decision arbitrary and capricious. The court also found that including a response to a comment in an appendix to the EIS rather than the body of the EIS did not violate NEPA.

With respect to the NFMA challenge, although the court acknowledged that a plan relied on by USFS was somewhat ambiguous, but because the court is required to defer to USFS interpretation of its own plans found USFS’s actions were not arbitrary and capricious.

Written By: Tina Thomas and Chris Butcher
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