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California Forestry Ass'n v. Thomas

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20202
Nos. CA 94-589, 936 F. Supp. 13/(D.D.C., 08/27/1996)

The court holds that timber companies, a trade association, and a county lack constitutional and prudential standing to challenge the U.S. Forest Service's interim guidelines on managing spotted owl habitat in California's western Sierra Nevada national forests. Plaintiffs alleged that the guidelines would reduce the amount of available timber for sale, increase the price of timber, and damage their economic well being. The court first holds that although plaintiffs' future economic injury satisfies the injury-in-fact requirement, plaintiffs failed to show that their injury would be redressed by a favorable decision. Even if the court enjoined the interim guidelines, the Forest Service could still independently preclude plaintiffs from cutting down any trees around owl habitat. The court next holds that plaintiffs cannot establish standing on the basis of the procedural rights under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act. Plaintiffs failed to show that the guidelines will cause a demonstrably increased risk of environmental harm, because their claim that the guidelines will adversely affect forest health by causing disease and insect infestations and by failing to control forest fires depends largely on speculation about the natural course of forest development. The court then holds that even assuming plaintiffs could establish constitutional standing, they lack standing under NEPA's zone of interest test. Plaintiffs' interest in securing the adoption of a Forest Service plan that maximizes the number of trees available for harvesting is not systematically aligned with NEPA's purpose of preventing or eliminating damage to the environment.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Steven P. Quarles
Crowell & Moring
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20004
(202) 624-2500

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