WASHINGTON (CN) – Lumber companies claim the Obama administration illegally revoked logging decisions in western Oregon, after the Bush administration rushed through decisions during its final weeks in office. The Bush administration gutted an interagency consulting requirement during its final-hours’ rule-making, and in March this year Congress and President Obama rescinded the consultation-stripping regulation.
Douglas Timber Operators, a trade association; the Carpenters Industrial Council, a labor association; and three “family-owned” timber companies claim the Department of Interior unfairly withdrew logging decisions for six Bureau of Land Management districts.
The groups had challenged a 1994 version of the Northwest Forest Plan, which reduced logging by 82 percent from previous levels, to 208 million board feet.
A 2003 settlement agreement required the BLM to revise the six districts’ management plans by December 2008, the latest complaint states.
After an extensive public comment period, the revised plans allowed for 502 million board feet of logging – which would “significantly benefit” plaintiffs.
But in July this year the Department of Interior withdrew the decisions, citing lack of interagency consulting, as required under the Endangered Species Act.
The Bush administration gutted this requirement during its final-hours’ rule-making, and in March this year Congress and President Obama rescinded the consultation-stripping regulation.
The timber groups claim that instead of withdrawing the plans, which the Secretary of Interior lacks the authority to do, the feds should just have initiated a consultation process for the six regions.
Represented by Mark Rutzick of Oak Hill, Va., the groups claim that the Interior Department violated environmental laws and the settlement agreement by not completing environmental review or including the public in its decisions.