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Sierra Club v. Block

ELR Citation: 16 ELR 20049
Nos. No. L-85-69-CA, 614 F. Supp. 134/(E.D. Tex., 06/04/1985) Preliminary injunction issued

The court holds that the Forest Service's southern pine beetle infestation control program for wilderness areas in Texas satisfies National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, but that the Service violated its own guidelines for beetle-control cutting in such areas. The court rules that the environmental impact statements and environmental assessment prepared for the program in Texas satisfied NEPA's review requirements because they considered all potential adverse environmental implications of possible alternative control measures, including no action. Plaintiffs have not demonstrated, the court rules, the likelihood of success on this issue. Further, the court rules that the harm caused by the prohibition of all cutting by the Forest Service pending the trial on the merits far outweighs the harm caused by the government's cutting program.

The court next rules that the Forest Service has deviated from its overall control plan by cutting of hardwoods, which the beetles do not infest, and cutting more pines than necessary to stop the beetles. The court enjoins such excessive cutting in order to satisfy the measures for insect control set forth in the Wilderness Act. The court rules that excessive cutting, especially of hardwoods, would constitute irreparable harm while an injunction would cause no substantial harm. The court orders the Service to limit its control activities to those needed to protect existing red-cockaded woodpecker colonies and prevent the spread of beetles to lands bordering the wilderness areas.

To ensure compliance, the court preliminarily enjoins the Forest Service to follow its insect control guidelines and supply the plaintiffs with information regarding the location and extent of the cut.

[A related opinion is published at 15 ELR 20775.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Larry Daves
Daves & Hahn
420 S. Vine St., Tyler TX 75702
(214) 593-0184

Douglas L. Honnold
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
727 Walnut, Boulder CO 80302
(303) 449-5591

Counsel for Defendants
Robert Worthan, U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 2034, Tyler TX 75710
(214) 597-8146