April 07, 2006
Courts not amused by NEPA avoidance
This story began back in 2001, when the Six Rivers National Forest, in coastal Northern California, completed its fire plan. The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) sued because the Six Rivers had not done NEPA for the fire plan. The judge agreed with EPIC that the fire plan constituted a major federal action, so the Forest Service tried to rewrite its forest plan so that it would no longer be construed as an action. This involved removing direction for protecting Port Orford Cedar from root-rot (the direction was included in a separate EA), banning wildland fire use, and removing other direction regarding fire fighting and fuel reduction projects. Yesterday, the judge, who did not seem amused, once again ordered the Forest Service to write an EIS for the fire plan.
This is the second time that the court has rejected the agency’s argument that the fire plan is not a major federal action. As the agency tries to remove more of the planning process from NEPA review, it seems to be running into increasing problems.