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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Logging Challenges Are Too Vague, Court Rules

(CN) - The Sierra Club wasn't specific enough in its arguments against two logging projects in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest, the 1st Circuit ruled.

The Sierra Club, along with the Center for Biological Diversity and The Wilderness Society, challenged the Than Resource and Batcheldor Brook Vegetation projects, in which the Forest Service planned to log mature trees to allow for new growth. Such "successional habitat" consists of openings in the forest canopy, typically caused by fire, tornadoes, insect infestation and the natural toppling of trees.

The plans called for some road construction and maintenance, including in portions of inventoried roadless areas eligible for wilderness protection.

The service issued environmental assessments for the projects, concluding that their impacts did not merit a more in-depth environmental impact report, and denied the groups' administrative appeals. A federal judge in New Hampshire also rejected the Sierra Club's complaint.

Although the groups argued that the Forest Service should have used the National Forest Management Act "best available science" standard from 1982 versus 2000 rules, they neglected to explain how this would change the outcome of the assessment, the 1st Circuit ruled.

The Sierra Club failed to identify any "specific substantive dispute" on the Forest Service's science, and didn't address the adequacy of mitigation despite what the court called "troubling" effects of possible water sedimentation.

The Sierra Club's only concrete point on immediate harm of the projects was that clear-cutting would cause visual impacts, the federal appeals court in Boston noted.

As to the claim that the project is "controversial," the 1st Circuit wrote: "We are not told where the controversy lies, or even amongst whom there is a meaningful dispute. As best we can tell, the controversy is that the Sierra Club disagrees with the conclusions the Forest Service reaches, which is not sufficient by itself."

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