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National Wildlife Fed'n v. U.S. Forest Serv.

ELR Citation: 14 ELR 20349
Nos. No. 83-1153-SO, 592 F. Supp. 931/21 ERC 1225/(D. Or., 04/03/1984)

The Court rules that the Forest Service (USFS) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) and worst-case analysis for its seven-year action plan for sales of timber in the Mapleton District of the Siuslaw National Forest. The court first rules that the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands 1972 "Church Guidelines" on clearcutting were incorporated implicitly in the 1976 National Forest Management Act. However, the court holds that USFS has complied with the guidelines in the seven-year action plan. The court further rules that the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act sets substantive standards for USFS planning, but that USFS has met those standards.

Turning to the NEPA issues, the court first holds that the seven-year action plan requires an EIS. The plan formulates a long-range timber marketing program and thus constitutes a proposal for federal action. Because the planned sales involve 100 million board-feet of timber, the proposed action is major and significantly affects the environment. The court then holds that existing environmental analyses of timber harvest on the forest do not satisfy NEPA requirements for the seven-year action plan. The 1979 EIS for the Siuslaw National Forest Timber Resources Plan does not address the specific problems of the Mapleton District and specifically provided for a separate EIS for the district. The individual environmental assessments accompanying each sale do not address cumulative impacts of public and private logging or uncertainties in effectiveness of landslide prevention techniques. USFS must address the latter uncertainty in a worst-case analysis. Although plaintiffs' claims are in part based on inadequacies in the previously unchallenged 1979 EIS, the court declines to invoke laches. USFS is not prejudiced because it has not begun the proposed sales, and plaintiffs' failure to challenge the 1979 EIS was not due to lack of diligence since USFS had announced it would prepare a local EIS. Moreover, the 1979 EIS is programmatic and does not meet NEPA requirements for local actions. Finally, the court rules that with a NEPA violation, the court need not balance the equities before granting injunctive relief.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Terence L. Thatcher
National Wildlife Federation
519 SW 3d Ave., Suite 708, Portland OR 97204
(503) 222-1429

Gary D. Meyers
6955 SW Montauk Circle, Lake Oswego OR 97034
(503) 639-3723

Counsel for Defendants
Thomas C. Lee, Robert M. Simmons, Ass't U.S. Attorneys
312 U.S. Cthse., 620 SW Main St., Portland OR 97205
(503) 221-2101

Counsel for Defendants-Intervenors
Phillip D. Chadsey, Richard D. Bach
Stoel, Rives, Boley, Fraser & Wyse
900 SW 5th Ave., Portland OR 97204
(503) 224-3380