USFS Will Continue to Use Science and Conservation Biology in Forest Plans


In March 2015, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the D.C. District Court issued an order rejecting an extractive industry challenge to the Obama Administration’s National Forest Management Act 2012 Forest Planning Rule. The challenge alleged that the rule inappropriately requires the U.S. Forest Service to use science and conservation biology when creating new forest plans, which guide management on 191 million acres of national forests. On April 28, the judge issued her opinion setting forth the basis for her decision.

Judge Brown Jackson rejected claims from a coalition of timber, livestock, and off-highway vehicle organizations that these sustainability provisions in the 2012 Planning Rule will cause an economically harmful reduction in timber harvest and land use and an increase in forest fires.

Defendant-Intervenors Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Oregon Wild, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, as well as The Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife, represented by Earthjustice, argued that existing federal law provided ample authority for the Forest Service to promulgate the Planning Rule provisions, which place emphasis on ecologically sustainable forest management.

“The National Forest system is a shared heritage, owned by all Americans. The goal of this suit was to make resource extraction the primary use of national forests, which challenges the very idea of why these forests were established in the first place,” said Joseph Vaile with the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland, Oregon. “National forests provide us with clean drinking water and phenomenal recreation opportunities and these uses are more important than ever before.”

“WELC and its clients are very pleased with the court’s ruling,” said Susan Jane Brown, WELC staff attorney. “We are looking forward to working with the Forest Service and other stakeholders to get to the real business of developing science-based forest plans under the 2012 Planning Rule that provide for clean water, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and a restoration economy for local and regional communities.”

“The 2012 Forest Planning Rule establishes a balanced approach to sustain America’s national forests and conserve wildlife, and is supported by a broad spectrum of stakeholders,” said Pete Nelson of Defenders of Wildlife. “Now that the court has validated the lawfulness of the 2012 Planning Rule, this ruling clears the way for constructive efforts to move forward with forest plans that restore the ecological health of our national forests and deliver all of the benefits the American people expect from these special places.”

“We welcome the court’s rejection of this industry challenge to national forest management that emphasizes the ecological health of our public forests,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Trent Orr.  “The laws governing our national forests solidly support the Forest Service’s wise decision to plan for the ecological sustainability of all national forest and the invaluable ecosystem services these forests provide, including drinking water, clean air and outdoor recreation.”

A copy of the April 28 summary judgment is available here.

A copy of the March 31 denial of summary judgment for the industry challenge is available here.

Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-488-5789,
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 541-525-5087,
Trent W. Orr, Earthjustice, 415-217-2000,
Mike Anderson, The Wilderness Society, 206-890-3529,
Pete Nelson, Defenders of Wildlife, 206-290-0267,


Read more about our long history defending the National Forest Management Act here.

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