The U.S. Forest Service has formally announced its withdrawal of a decision to log an area of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire as a result of a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice. The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Conservation Action Project and the American Lands Alliance identified the failure of the Forest Service to properly disclose the impacts of the logging on wildlife populations in the WMNF.
The lawsuit was filed in US District Court for New Hampshire. The complaint described how the Forest Service failed to study the impact of logging on wildlife populations in the WMNF as federal law required. Logging has been shown to compromise the viability of some wildlife species.
The logging project is known as the Iron Maple timber sale and is located in Bartlett, New Hampshire adjacent to the Rocky Branch River.
“The US Forest Service has had more than 15 years to conduct the required wildlife studies. Instead the agency has ignored the law,” said David Carle, executive director of the Conservation Action Project. “As a result, the Forest Service does not know what the impact of logging and road construction is having on wildlife species within the WMNF. Failure to conduct the monitoring is not only irresponsible management, it is against the law.”
The lawsuit stated that the Forest Service has not gathered population data nor analyzed population trends for certain “management indicator species (MIS),” chosen by the Forest Service. The complaint also states that the Forest Service does not know if it is maintaining “viable populations” of wildlife species. The agency is required to monitor targeted species to see if logging, roads, and recreation facilities within certain areas impact the species populations. If the populations of these indicator species drop, it is highly probable that other species are also having a difficult time surviving the impacts of management activity such as logging.
“Because of this decision, hopefully the Forest Service realizes it has been violating the law by ignoring the environmental impacts of logging and road-building,” said John Demos, regional representative of the American Lands Alliance. “We are hopeful that the Forest Service will now develop a biologically and legally based wildlife monitoring program that studies how logging impacts species.”
According to Forest Service documents, the lawsuit was the primary reason the decision to log was withdrawn and states that the agency will do additional environmental analysis at the proposed logging site.
“It is very unfortunate that it took a lawsuit filed by citizens to get the Forest Service to see that they are breaking the law,” said Carle. “Having to go to court to get the attention of the Forest Service puts into question the commitment of the agency to public involvement. Comments from the public called for the wildlife monitoring but the Forest Service apparently ignored the comments.”
“With this decision we are hopeful that the Forest Service will take the time and construct a monitoring program that is legally and scientifically based,” said Demos. “The WMNF management program must protect, conserve, or safeguard the forest for future generations.”
The groups were represented by Neil Levine of the environmental law firm Earthjustice and Jed Callen of the Concord, NH law firm Baldwin, Callen, Hogan & Kidd.
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