Recreation Groups Join Efforts to Challenge New USFS Planning Regulations
August 14, 2012 12:00 PM
Greg Mumm, BRC Executive Director
Paul Turcke, Esq.
POCATELLO, IDAHO (August 14, 2012) -- Recreation advocates yesterday joined with several other organizations in a legal challenge to new forest planning regulations promulgated by the U.S. Forest Service.
The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) and the California Association of 4Wheel Drive Clubs (Cal 4 Wheel) joined forces with the other forest product and multiple use groups in filing a lawsuit to require the Forest Service to modify its new planning rule to avoid its devastating impacts on the health of National Forests, recreational uses of the forests and communities located nearby.
The U.S. Forest Service formally adopted new National Forest Planning rules on April 9, 2012. The new regulations shift the agency away from a jobs and ecosystem approach. Instead, the planning rule would cement the National Forests into endless litigation over single species management; an approach that even the agency admits has failed repeatedly in the last three decades.
The complaint takes the Forest Service to task for elevating species viability, ecological sustainability, and ecosystem services as mandatory national forest management objectives, above the five statutorily prescribed multiple uses: outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes. It also admonishes the Forest Service for requiring recreational opportunities to fit the agency's definition of "sustainable" in order to be allowed on national forest lands.
Greg Mumm, BRC's Executive Director said; "The new planning rules are actually more complex, costly, and procedurally burdensome than the regulations they replace. The agency has utterly failed to meet the guidelines of President Obama's directive calling for regulations to be cost effective, less burdensome, and more flexible. As written, this rule will tie the hands of forest managers and allow preservationists groups to bury any active management in endless litigation."
Mark Cave, President of Cal 4 Wheel expressed concern that the new regulations shift the Forest Service away from multiple use/sustained yield and impose a binding requirement for "ecological sustainability," which the agency doesn't define clearly. "The new rules are a recipe for analysis paralysis. It doesn't take any clairvoyance to predict never ending challenge from the environmental community." Cave said. .
"The wood products industry tried very hard to convince the Forest Service that these new rules work against forest health and jobs, both of which are vital to rural economies. We commented at every stage in the process. These rules ignore the multiple use mandate given to the agency by Congress. Instead, they focus on single species preservation," said Howard Hedstrom, President of Hedstrom Lumber in Grand Marais, Minnesota, and President of the Federal Forest Resource Coalition. "Going to court against the Forest Service was the last thing on our minds when we launched this coalition last year, but with the impact on jobs that will be caused by the planning rules, we had no other choice."
Parties in the lawsuit include: The Federal Forest Resource Coalition, Alaska Forestry Association, American Forest Resource Coalition, American Sheep Industry Association, California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, California Forestry Association, Minnesota Forest Industries, Minnesota Timber Producers Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Public Lands Council, and Resource Development Council for Alaska.
The Complaint can be found at http://www.sharetrails.org/uploads/Dkt_1_Complaint.pdf
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And the Green Machine's take on the above suit:
For Immediate Release, August 14, 2012
Contact: Taylor McKinnon, (928) 310-6713
Industry Lawsuit Attacks Science, Sustainability on National Forests
WASHINGTON— Livestock, timber and off-road industry groups filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday challenging the Obama administration’s 2012 planning rule for U.S. national forests. The industry groups focused their attack on provisions that require ecological sustainability and use of the best available science in the Forest Service’s management of the American public’s 193-million-acre national forest system.
“The timber and livestock industries’ opposition to science and sustainability shows they care about only one thing when it comes to our national forests: their own profits,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Even as new rules roll back longstanding protections for wildlife, industry keeps complaining about any limits being set on what they can extract from our national forests.”
The suit, which was filed by groups including the American Forest Resource Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and BlueRibbon Coalition, challenges new regulations implementing the National Forest Management Act that the Obama administration issued in January 2012. It alleges, among other things, that the Forest Service does not have the authority to require ecological sustainability and the use of best available science in the management of our national forests. The industry groups also challenged the Forest Service for requiring that recreation on our national forests be sustainable.
January’s rule marked the Forest Service’s fourth attempt since 2000 to promulgate National Forest Management Act regulations; all three previous attempts were challenged and defeated in court by the Center and allies, who argued successfully that the Forest Service had failed to assess the impacts of the rule changes on the environment, including endangered species. Like the 2000, 2005 and 2008 rules, the Obama administration’s planning rule weakens longstanding protections for biological diversity on national forests. Unlike the Center’s earlier challenges, however, the industry groups directly challenge the substance of the new rule, for including common sense requirements regarding sound science and sustainability.
Congress enacted the National Forest Management Act in 1976 to guide management of the national forest system, which consists of 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. In 1982, the Forest Service adopted national regulations to provide specific direction for activities such as logging, mining, livestock grazing and recreation. That rule included strong, mandatory protections for fish and wildlife, requiring the Forest Service to monitor and maintain viable populations.
*Center for Biological Diversity press release*
Timber, Ranching and ORV Industries File Forest Planning Rule Lawsuit
Created by Adam Rissien on August 20, 2012
Early this year the Forest Service issued final regulations that direct how each National Forest and Grassland produce Land Management Resource Plans, often called Forest Plans, which guide all management activities for 10 -15 years. The Forest Service has been trying to revise these regulations for over a decade, and the last two attempts under the Bush Presidency were struck down by the courts for violating the National Environmental Policy Act among other reasons. So under President Obama, we have a new set of rules that are certainly not perfect, but much improved compared to the last two versions. You can read more about the new rules and their ongoing saga in our Road RIPorter 2012 Spring Equinox issue.
So far no conservation groups have challenged the new rules, but last week a mishmash of timber, ranching and off road vehicle industry groups filed a lawsuit to stop the Forest Service from using the new regulations. Rather than going through all their ridiculous claims, a recent editorial from the Courthouse News Service sums it up nicely:
I see 5,000 lawsuits a week editing the Courthouse News page - stories of rape, murder, drugs, perversion, official corruption - revolting stuff.
But the most obnoxious lawsuit I saw this week was from the timber and cattle industries, which claimed that scientists exert "improper influence" on the U.S. Forest Service, by seeking ecological sustainability above industry profits in National Forests.
At the heart of the industry backed lawsuit is the notion that National Forests should only be managed to produce timber and provide water as directed by the 1897 Organic Act, which created the public land reserves that later became our national forests and grasslands. Evidently these litigants fail to realize forests must first be in a condition to actually produce the resources required in the Organic Act and the 1960 Multiple Sustained Yield Act before they can be utilized. Attacking the primacy of ecological sustainability is beyond short-sighted; it’s exemplary of the 'extract at all costs' mentality that trashed so much of our public lands and created the need for all those environmental laws decried by these same litigants.
Besides attacking ecological sustainability, the lawsuit also challenges other components of the rule:
that ecosystem services are a legitimate multiple use
that the Forest Service has to maintain viable populations of plants and animals
that the Forest Service uses the best available science; and
that the term ‘sustainable recreation’ potentially precludes off road vehicles use.
These claims would be laughable if not for the chance that a sympathetic D.C. judge could go along with this nonsense and actually further delay the Forest Service from generating new plans; many of which are more than 20 years old.
*From Wildlands Center for the Prevention of Roads*
Two responses to the above eco comments:
At last, a coalition of real-world interests has filed a lawsuit against the radical Eco-centric policies being foisted on the American public. For too long, the powerful and well-funded environmental lobby has been dictating land management policy through judicial fiat. Thanks to the environmental lobby's seemingly bottomless deep pockets, they have gone largely unchallenged for decades. It's high time someone challenged them at their own game.
Ya think! The USFS has a Congressional mandate to manage for multiple use, and that is slowly being changed to manage for preservation. Multiple use means that the land be managed for the benefit of ALL the public. The exclusionists don't want that! The eco extremists have worked the emotions of the public with their "don't hurt bambi" tirades for much too long. I agree that our PUBLIC lands need to be managed with an eye towards taking care of the over all scope of things, but I do not agree with the elitist view that quiet recreation is the only good recreation. Excluding any group from our forests is wrong.
As for logging, grazing, and OHV recreation, it's about time the powers that be start looking hard at the contributions they make to rural economies, particularly in the west. Big Green has killed the timber industry and the areas it supported are dieing a slow death. OHV has become their hot button in many areas as well. Believe me, without OHV, Moab would go away. Oh, wait, that's what they want! I am tired of the "I know better than you" attitude. I resent being told I can't go on land I pay taxes to support just because of my chosen form of recreation.
I hope this lawsuit forces some common sense into all involved, and in the near future we can get a Forest Plan that that returns the management of our lands to some semblance of reality! Sorry, ecotopians, mankind is here for a while. Get over it...
All of the above was gleaned from just doing what I do! It's all out there, kids. All ya gotta do is look around...