Description: Challenge to timber sale project in Mendocino National Forest that allegedly threatened Northern spotted owl.
Conservation Congress v. U.S. Forest Service
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 03/02/2018 Order Download Defendants' motion to dissolve the injunction and amend the judgment granted. The court found that the supplemental NEPA analysis addressed the court's concerns. The plaintiff asked the court to find that the new alternatives analysis was flawed because it was arbitrarily and capriciously based on fire conditions likely to occur during 97th percentile weather conditions. The plaintiff argued that these "inflated" fire weather conditions were used as a basis for incorporating a "large old tree component" into timber sales specifications and that 90th percentile weather conditions had been used in an earlier assessment. The court noted that this was a new issue that exceeded the scope of the original order but nonetheless found that the U.S. Forest Service provided an adequate explanation for using the 97th percentile conditions, including that the shift to the higher percentile accounted for climate change and was judged to approximate 90th percentile conditions over the 20-year life of the project. 05/30/2017 Judgment Download Final judgment entered remanding for supplemental NEPA analysis and enjoining removal of any trees with 20 inches dbh or greater in implementing the Project. 02/16/2017 Order Download Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment granted in part and denied in part. The federal district court for the Eastern District of California granted summary judgment to the plaintiff on claims that the defendants had not performed an adequate alternatives analysis and had failed to take a hard look under the National Environmental Policy Act. The court rejected other claims, including that an environmental impact statement (EIS) was required. In evaluating the degree to which impacts on the environment were "highly uncertain" and thus weighed in favor of requiring an EIS, the court's order noted that a recovery plan for the Northern spotted owl had identified "uncertainties" associated with climate change, but the court said that the plaintiff did not "tailor its argument to the context of the Project at issue." The court stated: To an extent, the Court may infer from these generalities that aspects of the Project cross into uncertain territory. But the Court cannot conclude, without more, the degree that this Project’s possible effects on the human environment are highly uncertain." 10/13/2015 Complaint Download Second amended complaint filed. A lawsuit filed in California federal court challenged the U.S. Forest Service's authorization of a large timber sale in Mendocino National Forest, which the plaintiff alleged would have adverse impacts on the Northern spotted owl, a species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The complaint included allegations that "[o]wl biologists theorize that Northern spotted owl populations in the Mendocino National Forest are particularly vulnerable to population declines associated with climate change, as these populations exist at the southern-most inland portion – the hottest and the driest portion – of the species’ range."