Update on five forestry lawsuits

by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers

Forest Owners React to Fire Suit: The fallout from the punitive US Forest Service lawsuit that extracted over $122 million in a fire damage settlement from Sierra Pacific Industries has Oregon landowners scrambling to prevent similar attacks by Obama administration federal prosecutors. Potential fire liability impacts and defensive strategies are being explored by state and private forest attorneys. Forest landowners near national forests have stepped-up fire prevention and closed their private lands to public recreation use until fire liability changes can be enacted in Oregon law.

Forest Road Legal Brief: Associated Oregon Loggers joined several forest industry groups who submitted to the US Supreme Court a legal brief, which supports the high court overturning a harmful Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The wrongheaded Ninth Circuit decision—if implemented—would require every forest landowner across the West to seek a federal Clean Water Act permit from the Environmental Protection Agency just to use a forest road. Concurrent with the high court effort, industry is lobbying Congress to pass legislation that would exempt roads from federal permitting.

Suit to Overturn Planning Rule: In August, the American Forest Resources Council (AOL a member) and several national forest user groups, filed a lawsuit in the Washington DC District Court to overturn the flawed National Forest Planning Rule that was adopted in April 2012. For three years during Rule development, forest users had argued that the proposed Forest Service Rule was both unbalanced and illegal. The new Rule wrongly dictates future forest plans must discard multiple-use, instead illegally making environmental & species preservation the preeminent Forest Service goal.

State Forest Plan Revision Begins:
At its July meeting, the Oregon Board of Forestry unanimously approved the first step to revise the forest management plan for Oregon’s Northwest and Southwest state forests. After several years of urging from the trust counties and forest sector—including AOL—the Board directed the OR Dept. of Forestry to determine how the forest plan can be revised to produce more income, through significantly increased timber sale volume. AOL is working with our allies to convince the Board and ODF to shorten its proposed 5-year plan revision process.
Roadless Amicus Brief: In June, American Forest Resources Council (AOL a member) joined with the BlueRibbon Coalition and other recreation groups on an appeal asking the US Supreme Court to review a wrongheaded Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding the Clinton-era Roadless Rule. Forest users have long-opposed the 2001 Clinton Roadless Rule because it creates a blanket, nationwide scheme that makes 69 million acres of national forests into de facto Wilderness areas. The Supreme Court is expected to decide in the fall whether to hear the case.

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