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Conservation Congress v. United States Forest Service

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20087
Nos. 2:13-cv-00934-JAM-DB, (E.D. Cal., 05/17/2021) (Mendez, J.)

A district court granted summary judgment for the Forest Service and FWS in an ongoing dispute over a tree-thinning project in Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Conservation groups argued the Forest Service violated NEPA by failing to take a hard look at the project's effects and failing to prepare a supplemental EIS, and violated the National Forest Management Act by failing to satisfy the standards set forth in the forest's land and resource management plan (LRMP) for snags, down logs, and old growth retention. The court found that the Service's NEPA analysis was reasoned and took a hard look at the probable environmental consequences, and that the groups failed to identify new information to show the project would affect the environment in a way not already addressed by the final EIS. It further found the Service's decisionmaking with respect to the project's effects on snags and down logs and its compliance with old growth standards was neither erroneous nor inconsistent with the LRMP. The groups also argued FWS violated the ESA by failing to use the best available scientific data available, erroneously determining no adverse modification of critical habitat would occur, and failing to reinitiate consultation. The court found that FWS used the best available science in conducting its critical habitat analysis, that the project would not adversely modify spotted owl habitat, and that there was no need to reinitiate consultation. It therefore granted summary judgment for the Forest Service and FWS.