White Mountain National Forest Plan Upheld
On February 6, 2009 the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit gave the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) the legal green light to timber sales that had been challenged by the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.
The Appeals Court decision affirmed a lower court ruling issued June 6, 2008 by U S First Circuit Judge Stephen McAuliffe, which upheld a decision by WMNF to proceed with two timber sales, the Than Brook Project in Jackson and the Batchelder Brook Project in Warren.
The Appeals Court ruling reviewed each of the claims raised by the Sierra Club on appeal, dismissing each of them. The Appeals Court ruled that the Forest Service had properly complied with its own forest planning rules, that it had properly complied with the National Forest Management Act, that it had properly complied with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and that the Sierra Club had failed to establish any legal basis on which the Court could or should stop either the Than or Batchelder Projects.
In addressing the Sierra Club claim that the Forest Service should complete a full Environmental Impact Statement on both projects, the Appeals Court determined that the substantial work done by the Forest Service in preparing comprehensive Environmental Assessments for each project more than complied with the mandate of NEPA to review adverse environmental impacts. One claim made by the Sierra Club was that the effects of both projects were "controversial," thereby requiring a full EIS. The Appeals Court said: "...the highly general character of this claim deprives it of force. We are not told where the controversy lies, or even amongst whom there is a meaningful dispute. As best we can tell, the controversy is that the Sierra Club disagrees with the conclusions the Forest Service reaches, which is not sufficient by itself to warrant an EIS."
This is one victory in a chain of challenges, challenges which have intentionally diverted time and treasure of the professional land managers at the WMNF away from the land and away from the practice of sustainable forest management.