A huge victory for wildlife, people and our public lands

Duncan Canyon, Tahoe National Forest, California. Photo by Ed Pandolfino.

Court decision opens door to better forest management

When you don’t live inside the bubble of environmental policy work, it can be hard to get excited about multi-page court decisions on forest policy. Still, there was one huge ruling this week that all proponents of wildlands should be thrilled about.

The June 30 decision by a federal court in California gave a huge victory to wildlife, people and our public lands by negating Bush-era attempts to roll back protections for forests and by requiring the federal government to prioritize the health of wildlife populations when managing national forests. Here are the essential facts of the case:

  • On June 30, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California threw out Bush-era attempts to weaken rules governing management of America’s 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands.
  • The Bush-era rules announced last year repealed key protections for national forests mandated under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The court found that the U.S. Forest Service violated National Environment Policy Act, a law signed in 1970 that requires the federal agencies to consider environmental damage that could be caused by decisions about managing forests.
  • Under the ruling, the federal government is now required to manage national forests in a way that makes protecting healthy wildlife populations a key priority. Federal agencies responsible for managing forests must also focus on preserving clean water and conserving a diverse array of natural forests.

The court’s decision stems from a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice representing The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and Vermont Natural Resources Council.

As great as the win is for land and wildlife, it’s also a huge step in the right direction for the American public: The federal court decision opens the door for much greater public participation in the decisions our government makes about managing our public forests.

People across the country will now have greater opportunities to make their voices heard. The ruling gives us a better chance to speak up for endangered species, clean water and recreational opportunities…to make it clear that forest management decisions should consider the potentially harmful environmental consequences. It provides the legal authority for us to insist that science and proper stewardship of our national forests do matter when it comes to managing our forests.

This is an enormous “W” for our public lands and all that depend on them.

photo: Duncan Canyon, Tahoe National Forest, California. Photo by Ed Pandolfino.