Portland, Ore. – The American Forest Resource Council applauded the unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to allow the historic “A to Z” forest health project to proceed on the Colville National Forest in Northeastern Washington. AFRC intervened in the case on behalf of Stevens County, Pend Oreille County and the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition.
Last year the coalition proposed restoration projects under the 54,000-acre “A to Z” project to accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration on the Colville National Forest while enhancing recreation and wildlife habitat and supporting jobs in local communities. An environmental litigant group filed suit to stop an effort to thin over 12,000 acres of dense forests within the project area.
Yet the Ninth Circuit denied injunctive relief to halt the project and rejected each of the group’s claims, finding there was not a likelihood of success, “much less” serious questions on the merits of the claims. The court noted that this is a forest restoration project and “was the result of a multi-year collaboration among elected officials, environmental organizations, Native American tribes, the timber industry, and community organizations.”
“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit recognized this important forest restoration project complied with federal environmental law. As evidenced by the project’s support from industry, the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, and Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties, there is a broad and growing consensus that our National Forests need active management,” said AFRC General Counsel Lawson Fite, who argued the case before the court.
The panel of three judges made several key findings in its denial of injunctive relief, ruling that the thinning project does not interfere with the viability of fisher and pine marten habitat under the Colville Forest Plan. In addition, they determined the project was designed to minimize sediment runoff from road building and grazing in the plan.
“This decision is a big win for forest restoration,” Fite added “AFRC was glad to step up and join our partners and defend the Forest Service in this case. We encourage other National Forests to follow the example of the Colville National Forest.”
The Ninth Circuit’s denial of injunctive relief means the project’s implementation can continue at least through final judgment, which is likely at least a year away.
About the American Forest Resource Council
AFRC is a regional trade association whose purpose is to advocate for sustained yield timber harvests on public timberlands throughout the West to enhance forest health and resistance to fire, insects, and disease. AFRC does this by promoting active management to attain productive public forests, protect adjoining private forests, and assure community stability. It works to improve federal and state laws, regulations, policies and decisions regarding access to and management of public forest lands and protection of all forest lands. The ultimate goal of AFRC’s programs and initiatives is to advance its members’ ability to practice socially and scientifically responsible forestry on both public and private forest lands.