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National Forest Management: The Contested Use of Collaboration and Litigation

March 2016

Citation: ELR 10208

Author: Martin Nie and Peter Metcalf

Litigation over national forest management has received substantial attention from members of Congress who claim that “environmental obstructionists” are abusing the legal system; conversely, litigants criticize the U.S. Forest Service’s practice of collaborative management as insufficiently protective, leaving courts as the best resort. The authors review the emergence and increasing use of collaboration and some of the claims and counterclaims regarding Forest Service litigation. Through interviews with litigants, they describe prominent themes and issues, including criticism of collaboration, views about environmental advocacy, the need to enforce the law, the National Environmental Policy Act, and litigants’ other views regarding forest health, science, and restoration. The authors take issue with current congressional efforts to marginalize advocacy groups and citizens who use courts to enforce the law, but they also reject the false choice between collaboration and litigation and explain why both are necessary components of modern national forest management.

Martin Nie is Director of the Bolle Center for People and Forests at the University of Montana. Peter Metcalf is a doctoral candidate at the University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation.

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