Court Supports WMNF Timber Sales

September 15, 2008

Court Supports WMNF Timber Sales

Last week the US First District Court of Appeals in Boston rejected a request by the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society to temporarily suspend any activity by the US Forest Service on three timber sales in the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF). As a result of the ruling, the successful bidders for the three sales (treating 380 acres in Warren and 929 acres in Jackson) can now begin work.

The proposed sales, projected to yield an estimated nine million board feet of timber, have been the target of an ongoing legal challenge by the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society, who claimed that the timber sales failed to comply with federal laws governing the administrative procedures for such activities.

In June of 2008 US District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe ruled that the Forest Service had complied with all governing statutes regarding the timber sales, and that the plaintiffs had failed to meet the burden of showing otherwise. The plaintiffs immediately appealed the McAuliffe decision and sought a temporary injunction to prohibit any work on the ground until after the Appeals Court rendered its decision.

While the appeal itself is yet to be decided, the denial of a temporary injunction means that harvesting work can continue on the ground while the appeal is pending.

Like all national forests, the 800,000-acre WMNF is managed for multiple uses, including sustainable timber harvesting and management, according to a "Forest Plan."

The recently updated WMNF Forest Plan, incorporating eight years of active public input, allows for 24 million board feet of timber to be harvested on an estimated 3,400 acres per year – less than one percent of the WMNF’s available forest base – over a 15-year period.

The WMNF Forest Plan, which also requires wildlife habitat maintenance and restoration measures on all harvests, has earned broad public support. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Appalachian Mountain Club, North Country Council, Audubon Society of New Hampshire, NH Timberland Owners Association have endorsed the Forest Plan as one that allows for sustainable multiple uses of a public resource. The five organizations also filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in support of the proposed timber sales when the Sierra Club challenged them in a lawsuit claiming that the sales failed to comply with federal laws and rules governing the administrative procedures for such activities.