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Idaho Conservation League v. Thomas

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21093
Nos. CV 95-0425-S-EJL, 917 F. Supp. 1458/(D. Idaho, 12/11/1995)

The court holds that a U.S. Forest Service decision to offer a salvage timber sale in the Boise and Payette National Forests as a means of funding a wildfire recovery project was not arbitrary and capricious under §2001(f)(4) of the 1995 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Rescissions Act, even though it was contrary to expert advice. The court first holds that the Forest Service adequately considered issues raised by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Although the NMFS reached a different conclusion with regard to the site, the Forest Service was free to disagree with those views and to rely on its own expertise. Moreover, the Rescissions Act expressly grants to the Secretary of Agriculture sole discretion over the extent to which the environmental impacts of the salvage timber sale should be considered. The court next holds that the Forest Service decision to offer the salvage timber sale was not an arbitrary and capricious deviation from watershed management policies and land resource management plans (LRMPs) for the forests. There was sufficient evidence to support the Forest Service's view that the LRMPs did not foresee the changed conditions that resulted from a fire that burned 150,000 acres in 1994. The court also holds that the Forest Service decision to use the salvage timber sale to finance the restoration project was not arbitrary and capricious. Using anticipated revenue from the salvage timber sale and other financing it identified, the Forest Service would be able to fund the restoration project. The court holds that the Rescissions Act does not require the Secretary of Agriculture to personally authorize the salvage timber sale. Such a requirement would severely thwart, if not negate, the Act's purpose of facilitating and expediting salvage timber sales in the national forests and on other public lands. Finally, the court holds that documents authored by agencies other than the Forest Service and not sent or released to it should be stricken from the record as they were not before the decisionmaker at the time of the decision. Documents that came from the Forest Service and reflect the costs implementing the decision should be included in the record as they more fully explain the agency's decision to use the timber sale as a means of financing recovery projects.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Kristen L. Boyles
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund
705 Second Ave., Ste. 203, Seattle WA 98104
(206) 343-7340

Counsel for Defendants
Lois J. Schiffer
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000