On behalf of seven environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund filed suit in Federal Court today to stop logging in National Forests from wiping out rare birds and fish in the Southern U.S. Despite a previous court ruling that the U.S. Forest Service must examine the ways logging will harm endangered species, the Forest Service has continued to allow logging that destroys sensitive animal habitat. This suit aims to halt that destruction. “We again have to seek relief from a federal court to halt destructive logging because the US Forest Service refuses to comply with their duty to protect rare and sensitive species in our southern National Forests,” said René Voss of the Sierra Club Board of Directors. “Many declining bird species such as wood warblers and various darters and other fish species continue to decline from the logging of our national forests in the South.”
In February of 1999, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta agreed with Sierra Club that the law requires the US Forest Service to survey and monitor rare wildlife species in order to gauge whether they remain viable or can persist and not become endangered. The court concluded that the US Forest Service did not maintain adequate data to make these scientific judgments and ordered the Forest Service to stop logging in Georgia’s Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests. That ruling also affected logging activities in Alabama and Florida.
“Many of our rare species are in decline from clearcutting on our National Forests,” said attorney Eric Huber with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. “Logging and associated road-building destroys nesting birds, wildlife habitat, causes severe soil erosion which in turn destroys fish habitat.” “Despite the clear mandate of the Court, the Forest Service continues to approve destructive logging and road-building in the national forests without first obtaining the scientific information necessary to protect the wildlife in these areas. To make matters worse, instead of complying with the Court ruling, the Forest Service is attempting to rewrite their plans and rules to get out from under the requirements to do these surveys,” said Eric Huber. “This suit will enforce the court of appeals decision and apply it throughout the Southern Region.”
The suit seeks to suspend logging where the Forest Service does not have the required data until it complies with the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act.
The Southern Region of the US Forest Service includes 31 National Forests in Georgia (Chattahoochee and Oconee), Alabama (Talladega, Bankhead, and Conecuh), Louisiana (Kisatchie), Tennessee (Cherokee), Arkansas (Ouachita, Ozark, and St. Francis), Mississippi (DeSoto, Homochitto, Bienville, Tombigbee, and Holly Springs), Texas (Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Sabine, and Angelina), Florida (Ocala, Osceola, and Apalachicola), North Carolina (Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie, and Croatan), South Carolina (Sumter and Francis Marion), Virginia (Jefferson and George Washington), and Kentucky (Daniel Boone).
Joining Sierra Club as plaintiffs are the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute, Wild South, Wild Alabama, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, Friends of Georgia, Rabun County Coalition to Save the Forests, and Cherokee Forest Voices.
Joining EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund, representing these Clients are WildLaw (for Wild South and Wild Alabama), Stack and Associates and Southern Environmental Law Center (for Cherokee Forest Voices).