Old-Growth, the US Forest Service, & Federal Law


Monday, May 19, 2008


Ninth Circuit Sierra ruling should shift Forest Service priorities

6:31 PM ET




Greg Loarie [attorney, Earthjustice]: “At its core, Sierra Forest 

Legacy v. Rey (incorrectly titled CBD v. Rey) challenges the 2004 

Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (also known as the “2004 

Framework”), which establishes management direction for all 11 

national forests in the Sierra Nevada. The 2004 Framework replaced 

the original “2001 Framework,” which set forth a balanced approach 

for conserving species and reducing the risk of wildfire and was 

widely regarded as the new gold standard for ecosystem-based forest 

management. The 2004 Framework abandoned the 2001 Framework’s 

carefully crafted standards, and called for a drastic increase in 

logging of large, fire-resilient trees throughout the Sierra.


When it adopted the 2004 Framework, the Forest Service acknowledged 

that logging large trees does not reduce the risk of wildfire, but it 

claimed that such logging was necessary to finance the removal of 

smaller trees and brush. Quite literally, the 2004 Framework lost 

sight of the forest for the trees. Our clients argued, and the Ninth 

Circuit agreed, that the Forest Service’s failure to consider any 

alternative options for financing fuel reduction activities violated 

the National Environmental Policy Act. Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit 

enjoined the Forest Service from carrying out aspects of three 

logging projects – totaling 12,000 acres – in the northern Sierra 

Nevada that implement the 2004 Framework and would be inconsistent 

with the 2001 Framework.


In our view, the Ninth Circuit’s repudiation of the 2004 Framework is 

an important legal victory that should shift the Forest Service’s 

attention away from the last big trees in the backcountry and back to 

the important fuel reduction activities that are needed around Sierra 



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