Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project v. Pence
Citation: 29 ELR 20260
No. Civ. 98-22-FR, 22 F. Supp. 2d 1136/(D. Or., 09/21/1998)
The court upholds a U.S. Forest Service decision to allow a timber sale in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon. The Forest Service's decision allows the harvest of approximately 10.7-million-board feet of timber from approximately 3,560 acres, which includes 92 acres of conifers encroaching on aspen stands within riparian habitat conservation areas. The court first holds that the decision of the Forest Service to amend the Malheur National Forest plan to allow for aspen regeneration in riparian areas without the preparation of an environmental impact statement is reasonable and supported by the environmental assessment (EA) and the administrative record. A review of the EA and supporting administrative record shows an extensive discussion and analysis of water quality and fisheries. The aspen management aspects of the timber sale are fully discussed throughout the administrative record. In addition, the Forest Service subsequently designed the timber sale project to be consistent with the results of the watershed analysis. The court further holds that the record in this case provides the public with a basis for evaluating the impact of the proposed timber sale on water quality and fisheries.
The court next holds that the Forest Service carefully considered detailed information concerning the significant environmental impacts of the timber sale on primary cavity excavators. The Forest Service designed the timber sale project to comply with the Malheur land and resource management plan (LRMP) in order to comply with the National Forest Management Act's viability regulation. The Forest Service evaluated the effects of the timber sale on the primary cavity excavator species, eight woodpecker species, by analyzing the potential effects of the timber sale on dead and defective trees, also known as "snag" habitat. It then predicted the effects of the timber sale on the cavity excavator species, using scientific data describing the relationship between the snag habitat and the biological requirements of the species. The court also holds that the EA fully disclosed the proposed reduction in cover and explained the need to amend the LRMP accordingly.
Counsel for Plaintiffs
Western Environmental Law Center
1216 Lincoln St., Eugene OR 97401
Counsel for Defendants
Thomas C. Lee, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
888 SW 5th Ave., Ste. 1000, Portland OR 97204