For Immediate Release, April 11, 2008
Paul Spitler, Center for Biological Diversity, (541) 848-7538
Pete Frost, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 543-0018
Forest Service Attempts to Remove Protections for Wildlife
Across the Country, Meets With Lawsuit
SAN FRANCISCO— A coalition of 14 conservation groups filed suit today in federal court to block the U.S. Forest Service from implementing a new rule that would remove protections for fish, wildlife, and other resources throughout the 192-million acre National Forest System. The rule represents the Forest Service’s third attempt to weaken the nationwide regulations.
“The Forest Service violated the law in preparing new rules in 2000 and 2005, and the 2008 rule is also fatally flawed,” said Paul Spitler, attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Forest Service should stop wasting resources and develop a rule that ensures protection for the fish, wildlife, and other resources in our national forests.
During the 1980s and ’90s, the Forest Service operated under nationwide regulations that provided mandatory protection for forest resources, including a requirement to ensure the viability of fish and wildlife species. These regulations governed all proposed projects — such as timber sales, livestock grazing, and road construction — throughout the National Forest System. The Forest Service first attempted to weaken these nationwide regulations in 2000, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the agency had violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
Under the Bush administration, the Forest Service attempted to remove essentially all environmental safeguards for the national forests with a new rule in 2005. In March 2007, however, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California threw out the 2005 rule based on violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. Unfortunately, the new 2008 rule is in most respects identical to the 2005 rule. The 2008 rule continues to significantly weaken protection for forest resources, including the elimination of the long-standing requirement to ensure viable populations of fish and wildlife species.
“Thankfully the Bush administration is coming to an end, as it continues to push forward with woefully inadequate protection for our national forests,” said attorney Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center.
In addition to weakening substantive protection, the new rule also decreases public participation in forest planning by allowing the Forest Service to “categorically exclude” entire forest plans from public review and environmental analysis requirements.
The Forest Service has previously been found in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act for its refusal to analyze and disclose the environmental impacts of its attempt to weaken the nationwide regulations. For the 2008 rule, while the agency prepared what it purports to be an “environmental impact statement,” it simply states there will be no environmental impacts. For close to a decade, and despite two losses in court, the Forest Service still refuses to acknowledge that the elimination of nationwide environmental safeguards will result in adverse impacts on the environment.
“The elimination of mandatory standards that protected our national forests for decades will of course result in increased environmental harm to fish, wildlife, and other natural resources in the National Forest System,” said Fink. “The courts have recognized this, the general public can see this, but the Forest Service has chosen once again to keep its head in the sand.”
The 14 plaintiff conservation organizations in the lawsuit are: Citizens for Better Forestry, Environmental Protection Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Wild West Institute, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Idaho Sporting Congress, Friends of the Clearwater, Utah Environmental Congress, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Wild South, The Lands Council, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, and Oregon Wild. The groups are represented by Marc Fink and Lisa Belenky of the Center for Biological Diversity, and Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center.
A copy of the complaint can be found here:
A copy of the new rule can be found here: