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Prairie Wood Prods. v. Glickman

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 20085
Nos. 96-6058-HO, 95-1519-HO, 971 F. Supp. 457/(D. Or., 04/10/1997)

The court holds that the U.S. Forest Service implementation of interim resource conservation policies in nine national forests was not arbitrary or capricious and did not violate the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Forest Service developed interim strategies for timber management and riparian management pending completion of a long-term forest plan. The court consolidated separate challenges by a timber products' association and an environmental group alleging that the Forest Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously when implementing the interim strategies. The court first holds that incorporation of the interim strategies did not constitute significant amendments to the forest plans requiring extensive public involvement and analysis, including an environmental impact statement (EIS). In this case, the Forest Service conducted an environmental assessment anticipating the effects of the interim strategies, and the Regional Forester took a hard look at the four criteria before determining that incorporation of the strategies would not constitute a significant amendment. The court next rejects plaintiffs' claim that the Regional Forester's amendment of the forest plans on a regional basis, rather than on a forest-by-forest basis violated the NFMA's forest plan amendment procedures. The Forest Service's interpretation that the Regional Forester's broader responsibilities permit him to approve forest plan amendments where "coordination of the standards and guidelines between forests is necessary," is a reasonable interpretation of NFMA management guidelines. The court next holds that the Forest Service's interim timber strategy did not violate the Forest Service Organic Act of 1897 or the NFMA by failing to protect the forests against fire, insects, and disease. The 1995 amendments to the interim strategies address the threats of fire, insects, and disease in the affected forests, and are sufficient to meet the Forest Service's duty to safeguard the forests in the context of its multiple use obligations and objectives. The court also holds that the Forest Service rationally considered relevant factors in determining that adoption of the interim forest and riparian strategies would not have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment under NEPA. Because both strategies were designed and anticipated to conserve the physical environment rather than irretrievably commit resources, neither strategy required preparation of an EIS. In addition, the Forest Service took the requisite hard look at the environmental effects of its decision and at the factors specified in the regulations and were in accordance with law and not an abuse of discretion. The court further holds that the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by deciding to adopt the interim timber strategies before completing the required NEPA analysis. Last, the court holds that the Forest Service considered a range of riparian and timber management strategies that was sufficient to reach an informed decision under NEPA. The Regional Forester had the discretion to select a range of alternatives sufficient to allow a reasoned choice as to the best way to manage the forests in light of recent environmental degradation, and that discretion was broadened by the fact that the proposed action was deemed not likely to have significant effect on the environment.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Scott W. Horngren
Haglund & Kirtley
One Main Pl.
101 SW Main St., Ste. 1800, Portland OR 97204
(503) 225-0777

Counsel for Defendants
Thomas C. Lee, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
888 SW 5th Ave., Ste. 1000, Portland OR 97204
(503) 727-1000