Forest Service Permits Endanger Forests

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The National Forest Service continues to violate environmental laws and its own regulations by granting special use permits for commercial packstock operations in the Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness areas, the High Sierra Hikers Association claim in Federal Court.

     High Sierra Hikers sued in April 2000, and the case was supposed to have been settled by an Oct.30, 2007 order finding the Forest Service in violation of several sections of the National Environment Policy Act, the Wilderness Act and the National Forest Management Act. But on Jan. 11 this year the Hiker requested a permanent injunction, based on the court’s findings of violations in the 2007 order.
     The parties were unable to settle their disputes despite an order directing them to, leaving the court to adopt “a combination and refinement of [proposed] remedies.”
     Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte found the plaintiffs’ request that packstock service days be reduced by 30 percent from 2002-2004 use levels “unduly harsh on the packers and their customers” and decided that a reduction of 5 percent from those levels would be sufficient.
     Laporte rejected the plaintiffs’ proposal that service days be used in the same proportion for the same type of trips as during the 2002-2004 time period. She said that would require too much micro-management by the court. Laporte also ordered a 1:1.5 stock-to-person ratio instead of the plaintiffs’ proposed 1:3 ratio, which she found infeasible.
     Packstock operations harm the habitat of the endangered Yosemite toad. The plaintiffs wanted an order prohibiting commercial entry, grazing or travel in all occupied Yosemite toad breeding or upland habitats, including those within 150 meters of “ephemeral streams, springs and seeps,” except on approved trails. Laporte prohibited operations only in areas of permanent water sources, finding the plaintiffs’ proposal too restrictive.
     The court barred packstock operations for 90 days during the toad’s breeding season.

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