NEW YORK, NY. – Calling the Forest Service’s decision to log 300 acres of the
Green Mountain National Forest “arbitrary and capricious,” the U.S. Second Circuit
Court of Appeals handed a solid victory to conservationists on Monday, June 6
ruling vacates a decision to log the pristine, unique and rugged portions of the national
forest in the towns of Chittenden and Rochester, Vt. Forest Watch, the Forest
Conservation Council, and Friends of the Earth joined forces in 2003 to stop the Old Joe
Timber Sale because of shared concerns that logging this highly-valued area would have
on recreation, water quality and wildlife. Vermont’s Federal District Court denied the
conservationist’s lawsuit on March 16, 2004. The conservation groups appealed the
District Court’s decision to Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit
enjoined the logging pending the appeal. Late on Monday, it reversed the District
Court’s decision and vacated the Forest Service’s decision to log the Old Joe.
“This decision is a great victory for those who treasure the unique value that this
beautiful area of the Green Mountain National Forest offers,” said Jim Northup,
Executive Director of Forest Watch, a 7,000-member, Vermont-based group. “We filed
the lawsuit to protect wild nature and the interests of future generations, and we’ll do it
again if we have to. The Forest Service needs to learn that the steepest, wettest, most
remote and scenic areas on the national forest should not be logged, and that it must obey
the law and systematically weigh the benefits of logging against the impacts on soils,
water, wildlife, scenery, recreation and economics before proceeding.”
The areas protected by the Appeals Court ruling include sensitive corridors along
Chittenden and Bingo Brooks. The agency’s forest management plan identifies these
corridors as “Significant Streams,” and provides that their scenic, recreational and other
special qualities should be protected.
The Forest Service is responsible for over 400,000 acres of publicly owned forests
in Vermont and over 190 million acres nationwide. The lawsuit claimed that the Forest
Service is required by law to manage these lands in the way that provides for the greatest
social and economic wellbeing of individuals and the nation as a whole.
“Congress has repeatedly expressed its intent that the Forest Service consider and
account for all the ecosystem services that national forests provide and all of the costs
associated with logging,” says John Talberth, Executive Director of the Forest
Conservation Council. “Federal laws and regulations require the Forest Service to do a
full and rigorous accounting of the benefits and costs of its timber program—something it
consistently fails to do.”
The conservation groups maintain the Old Joe Timber Sale exemplifies the Forest
Service’s focus on exploiting the nation’s forests at the expense of sound public process
and public laws, and regardless of the public benefits or costs that would result.
“There is enormous public benefit to not logging this unique resource. We are
thankful that the public can turn to the Courts for enforcement of environmental
standards,” said Norman L. Dean, the Executive Director of Friends of the Earth.
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