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Magistrate Judge Smacks Down Enviros’ Arguments on Collaboration

Magistrate Judge Smacks Down Enviros’ Arguments on Collaboration

 

Portland, Ore. – Yesterday, Magistrate Judge Sullivan offered a strong rebuke of a dubious legal challenge to an important public safety project on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Northeast Oregon.

 

Judge Sullivan called out the plaintiffs’ – Greater Hells Canyon Council and Oregon Wild –  repeated failure to work collaboratively and in good faith on the Lostine Corridor Public Safety Project, stating, “instead of participating, plaintiffs [would] often object to how the Project was being developed, rather than providing meaningful, substantive input.”

 

The Lostine Corridor provides access into the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Wallowa County.  It not only provides important scenic, fishery, and wildlife values, but is also home to historic and recreational values including a Civilian Conservation Corps-era guard station, seven campgrounds, and three developed trailheads.  The corridor is interspersed with family homes, small residential developments, and private lands.

 

Residents, visitors, and emergency services agencies who operate in the area have expressed serious concerns about downed hazard trees along the roads, trails, and campgrounds.  Declining forest health, heavy fuel loads, and the risk of catastrophic fire threaten the many values of the Lostine Corridor.

 

In response, the Forest Service worked with stakeholders on a project to remove hazard and danger trees that pose a risk to the public; to create defensible space around residential and historical areas; to reduce fuel loads and the risk of high intensity fires; and to thin dense forest stands to improve forest resiliency to insects, disease, and wildfire.

 

Instead of working with the Forest Service and local residents to implement this critical public safety project, Greater Hells Canyon Council and Oregon Wild decided to sue, turning to their websites and social media to spread misleading information about the Lostine Corridor Public Safety Project.  In one post, Oregon Wild attacked the Forest Service claiming the agency “broke the law,” deliberatively “chose to cut most of the public out of the process and sidestep mandated environmental analysis” and that Lostine could be “irreversibly damaged by commercial logging and road building.”  One of the plaintiffs also produced a YouTube video of the project including footage of forests not even in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest or Northeast Oregon, apparently hoping no one would notice.

 

“It’s encouraging to see a Magistrate Judge sift through the hyperbole, stale talking points, and misinformation to see what’s really going on here: the ‘my way or the courtroom’ strategy that has dominated forest policy in Oregon for two decades,” said AFRC President Travis Joseph.  “It’s getting old.  Oregonians want to see people working together to improve our forests and protect communities – not in an endless cycle of litigation that helps no one, except maybe lawyers, and does nothing for the forest.”

 

Magistrate Judge Sullivan also didn’t buy the plaintiffs’ arguments about the lack of collaboration.  Judge Sullivan noted that plaintiffs repeatedly insisted that a “formal collaborative group” was required for project development, “even though there is no legal authority for such requirement.”  “Contrary to plaintiffs’ arguments, this does not require a structured nonexclusive working group from initial design stage nor the widespread dissemination of every piece of information on Project design and impacts at every stage of the development process.”  Magistrate Judge Sullivan highlighted how the Forest Service did, in fact, collaborate with plaintiffs and how they seek “to impose a more demanding definition for, and requirements of, a collaborative process.”

 

“Ideally, this decision would allow the Forest Service and its partners to move forward on the project to protect public safety and this incredible place so many people love.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the long legal process,” said Sara Ghafouri, AFRC staff attorney, who filed an amicus brief on behalf of AFRC. “We expect the plaintiffs will object to Judge Sullivan’s Findings and Recommendation and take their chances with Judge Simon.”


May 2018 Newsletter

Old Growth

The May 2018 Edition of the AFRC Newsletter.

  • D.C. Update
  • FTPC Recap
  • Frog Project Conclusion
  • Trump Reshapes Appeals Courts
  • Victory in Lava Case
  • Forest Health Advisory Committee Meets
  • R1 Salvage Preparation Moving Forward
  • Economic Viability in Forest Restoration
  • Keith Olson: Congratulations/Thank You
  • AFRC Communications Director Update

April 2018 Newsletter

  • 2018 Annual Meeting Showcases Success
  • Washington, D.C. Updates
  • AFRC Presses Its Case Against the Unlawful Expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
  • Chetco Bar Fire Salvage EA Released
  • Oregon Society of American Foresters Annual Meeting
  • Payette Holds Solutions Meeting
  • AFRC Welcomes Communications Director

March 2018 Newsletter

  • President Signs Fire Borrowing “Fix,” Management Reforms
  • Washington Legislative Recap
  • Oregon Legislative Recap
  • Westside Fire Recovery Litigation Settles
  • Remainder of Tower/Grizzly Case Dismissed after 9th Circuit Win
  • AFRC Lends Support in Moonlight Fire Petition to Supreme Court
  • Forest Service Use of Pod or Zone Concept
  • Changes to Forest Service Bid Form and New Contract Provisions
  • Forest Health in Oregon: State of the State 2018
  • Reminder: AFRC/HFHC Emerging Leaders Program
  • Last Chance to Register for AFRC’s Annual Meeting

February 2018 Newsletter

  • AFRC Annual Meeting – April 3-5
  • Washington State Legislative Update
  • Supreme Court Slams Door on White Castle Sale
  • AFRC Appeals Elk Camel Protest Denial
  • Region 6 Holds Environmental Analysis & Decision-making Roundtable
  • AFRC Staff Attorney Sara Ghafouri Testifies in Support of Oregon’s GNA Bill
  • Region 1 Salvage Update
  • AFRC Welcomes New Field Forester Amanda Astor

January 2018 Newsletter

  • Save the Date: AFRC’s Annual Meeting, April 3-5
  • Washington, D.C. Updates
  • Washington State Legislative Update
  • New Marbled Murrelet Habitat Assessment
  • Chetco Bar Fire Salvage
  • AFRC’s Request Granted to Appear in the Lostine Public Safety Project Litigation
  • High Court to Decide Important Critical Habitat Questions in Gopher Frog Case
  • Okanogan-Wentachee National Forest Update

December 2017 Newsletter

  • Washington, D.C. Updates
  • Congress Passes Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act
  • Changes Coming to Olympia as 2018 Legislative Session Approaches
  • AFRC Files Brief in Challenge to BLM’s Illegal Management Plan for Western Oregon
  • AFRC Asks Supreme Court to Review White Castle Decision
  • President’s Monument Revisions Bring a Cascade of New Litigation
  • Secretary Recommends Modifications to Cascade-Siskiyou
  • Billy Williams Nominated as Permanent US Attorney for Oregon
  • AFRC Files Ninth Circuit Amicus Brief in the Wolverine Fire Case
  • NEPA Efficiencies on the Willamette National Forest
  • Deschutes Project Receives Honor
  • Join our Team: AFRC is Hiring a Communications Director

November 2017 Newsletter

  • Washington DC Updates
  • New Video Celebrates AFRC Support of Habitat for Humanity Build in Springfield
  • AFRC Launches Second Habitat for Humanity Home in Lacey, WA
  • Loggers Suppressing Wildfires
  • Fire Salvage Planning Underway in Western Oregon
  • Fire Salvage Efforts Move Forward in Region 1, Region 6
  • Judge Denies Attempt to Stop Bull Run Project
  • Judge Denies TRO on Vital Southern Idaho Fire Recovery Projects
  • Board of Natural Resources Makes Decisions on Murrelets and Sustainable Harvest
  • Work Session on Murrelets
  • Forest Service Makes Changes to KV and Stewardship
  • AFRC Member Spotlight: Freres Lumber’s Veneer Plant Reconstructed, Back Online
  • AFRC is Growing – Join Our Team!

October 2017 Newsletter

  • Washington, D.C. Updates
  • BLM Denies AFRC Protest
  • National FTPC Meets in Duluth
  • Status of GNA and Farm Bill CE Implementation
  • Chetco Bar Fire BAER Report
  • Region 1 Tackles Fire Salvage and Restoration
  • AFRC Intervenes in Bull Run Project Challenge
  • President Trump Will Shrink Bears Ears and Grande Staircase-Escalante National Monuments
  • Judge Leon Grants Additional Stay in Cascade-Siskiyou Monument Litigation
  • Black-Backed Woodpecker and N. Rocky Mountains Fisher Listings Not Warranted
  • DNR Launches 20 Year Forest Health Strategic Plan
  • AFRC is Growing – Join our Team!

September 2017 Newsletter

  • Wildfires and Forest Management Reform
  • Fite Completes a Doubleheader
  • Court Decides Challenges to Western Oregon RMP Can Stay in D.C.
  • Frog Project Finally Cleared
  • Singletary Sale Overturned, More Process to Come
  • A New Nominee for the Ninth Circuit
  • AFRC Joins Amicus Brief on Value of Timber in Eminent Domain Cases
  • Ninth Circuit Lets Sunny South Project Operations Begin
  • Monument Report Includes Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
  • AFRC Intervenes in Challenge to Joey and Bald Mountain Projects
  • Ninth Circuit Ruled That an EIS is Not Required to Put Up Parking Lot
  • Murrelet Long Term Conservation Strategy Planning Grinds On
  • Note of Thanks