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Oregon Natural Resources Council v. Lyng

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 21503
Nos. No. 88-680-PA, (D. Or., 08/11/1988)

The court holds that the Forest Service's timber sale in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area does not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Act, or the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). The court first holds that the Forest Service did not violate NEPA. Its decision not to prepare a supplement to the environmental impact statement for the management plan was reasonable, because the environmental assessment (EA) for the timber sale adequately considered the effects of the sale on elk, other wildlife, and water quality. In addition, the Forest Service has imposed measures to monitor and mitigate these effects. The EA adequately considered cumulative impacts of this timber sale, even though it did not always label its analysis as such. A worst-case analysis is not required, because although the EA acknowledges some uncertainty in possible effects, some uncertainty is inevitable, and the EA does include sufficient information on the sale's probable effect to make a worst-case analysis unnecessary. The Forest Service adequately considered the no action alternative and site-specific impacts of the timber sale. The EA's identification of the proposal as involving six million board feet rather than 6.6 million board feet is nonetheless sufficient, since the EA also studied the effects of harvesting eight and 16 million board feet, and any additional harm caused by the extra 0.6 million board feet was adequately studied. The timber sale's effects on roadless areas were sufficiently studied.

The court next holds that the Forest Service has not violated the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Act. While the Act directs the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate regulations, no deadline is set, and the Act requires regulations only as the Secretary deems necessary. Existing rules under other statutes already cover the recreation area. Moreover, it is too late to challenge a decision to allow timber harvesting in the Duck Creek area, which is undertaken pursuant to an already final environmental impact statement and accompanying management plan.

The Forest Service has not violated the FWPCA. The FWPCA obligates federal agencies to comply with state water quality standards, and the Forest Service employs practices that will result in compliance with Oregon's water quality standards.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Gary K. Kahn
Reeves & Kahn
620 SW Alder, Ste. 910, Portland OR 97205
(503) 227-5144

Counsel for Defendants
Thomas Lee, Ass't U.S. Attorney
312 U.S. Courthouse
620 SW Main St., Portland OR 97205
(503) 221-2101