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Sierra Club v. Thomas

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20501
Nos. 94-3407, 105 F.3d 248/(6th Cir., 01/21/1997) Rev'd

The court holds that the U.S. Forest Service's decision to adopt a 10-year land and resource management plan (LRMP) calling for the clearcutting of timber in the Wayne National Forest in Ohio violated the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The court first holds that the environmental group plaintiffs have standing to challenge the LRMP. The court also holds that the challenge to the LRMP is ripe even though no site-specific action has occurred. Plaintiffs need not wait to challenge a specific project when their grievance is with an overall plan. The court next holds that the Forest Service's planning process was improperly predisposed toward clearcutting. The resulting LRMP is arbitrary and capricious because it is based upon this artificial narrowing of options. Further, the NFMA contemplates that even-aged management techniques will be used only in exceptional circumstances, but by arbitrarily undervaluing the recreational value of wilderness, the Forest Service improperly concluded that clearcutting was necessary. The court concludes that the Forest Service failed to comply with the protective spirit of the NFMA. The court further finds that their noncompliance is an arbitrary act in excess of the statutory limitations provided in §6(g)(3)(F)(v).

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 25 ELR 20052.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Frederick M. Gittes
Spater, Gittes, Schulte & Kolman
723 Oak St., Columbus OH 43205
(614) 221-1160

Counsel for Defendant
William B. Lazarus
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before: MARTIN, Chief Judge; BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge; COOK, District Judge.*