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Fish and Wildlife Service

(This is the first in a series of Q & As with Earthjustice staff who work to protect our nation's forests and their critical natural resources and wildlife. The Obama administration's recently proposed planning rule for our national forests may leave our waters and wildlife in peril. Kristen Boyles is a staff attorney in Earthjustice's Northwest office in Seattle.)

As I write this, members of the House of Representatives continue to debate and move their way through votes on hundreds of amendments to the chamber's government spending bill. The voting and debate has been a marathon process, stretching from morning through late at night for the last three days, and looks to carry on until late tonight or tomorrow.

Teabag by teabag, the anti-environment faction in the House of Representatives has filled its federal government spending bill with amendments that will cripple protections for our water, air, natural resources, wildlife and public health. 

Anyone who likes to hike, camp, fish, hunt, or view wildlife in our national forests—or anyone who wishes to do any of this anytime in the future—should be aware of a proposal for managing our national forests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Forest Service, released yesterday.

This week, following a challenge from California water districts, the state and corporate agribusiness, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to revise its plan to protect the delta smelt, a fish that makes its home in the brackish waters of the San Francisco Bay Delta. Earthjustice attorneys defended a biological opinion from USFWS that implemented protections for the smelt, and while the judge agreed with the majority of the biological opinion, he asked for revisions to specific sections.

Roger Beers, a lawyer who worked for Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council, once said that environmental cases are the most political of all. He meant that in environmental cases, the biases of the judge in a case are more likely to steer his decisions than in other kinds of cases.

I don't know if that's true, but I do know that our lawyers were always happy to draw federal judge Sam King should they be filing suit in Hawai`i. His biases--that's too loaded a word, of course, maybe his instincts--tended to be on the side of people and the natural world.

Reporters speak of a story having legs, meaning that it is likely to continue over an extended period. Spotted owls have legs.

The story began in the late '80s, when it became evident that out-of-control logging in ancient forests in the Northwest was about to extinguish the owls. Earthjustice sued, and managed to achieve Endangered Species Act protection for the owls.

End of story? Not quite.
 

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.