June 27, 2012
US Supreme Court to Hear Forest Roads Case
Positive Progress on a Critical Issue
The Supreme Court announced that it will hear two cases dealing with the treatment of forest roads under the Clean Water Act in its upcoming term. The question the Court will address is whether rainwater running off forest roads must be regulated as point source pollution, making forest roads subject to extensive federal permitting requirements.
In its 2011 ruling, the Ninth Circuit held that forest roads should be regulated under the federal National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. The Pacific Legal Foundation, reported, “As we highlighted in our amicus brief supporting the petition for certiorari, putting forest road runoff under this permitting regime goes against the EPA’s practice exempting such stormwater, and would impose unnecessary and enormous costs on 3 million forest land owners with little, if any, environmental benefit”. FLA signed on to the Pacific Legal Fund’s amicus brief in late 2011.
The cases are called Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center. The petitioners’ briefing on the merits will be due in August, as will PLF’s amicus brief.
Scott Jones, FLA CEO, stated “In order to sustain the forest, the forest landowner must be sustained as well. This erroneous ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would do just the opposite. The decision flies in the face of the solid science inherent in Best Management Practices, their 35 years of success, and a very high compliance rate in every state. The ruling, if left to stand, would cause financial, legal, and environmental problems further burdening all US forest landowners, private and public, large and small. We are encouraged that the Court will hear this case.”
In a Georgia-Pacific press release, Mike Adams, Georgia-Pacific senior vice president of sourcing and fiber supply stated, "We are pleased for the 2.5 million people and thousands of local economies that depend on forest products that the Supreme Court has decided to hear our appeal in this critical case. Today's decision is a significant step forward in protecting these jobs, especially in those states under the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction.
We along with numerous experts continue to believe the long-standing practice of regulating forest roads through state forestry best management practices is the most environmentally responsible way to oversee management of the nation's forest roads. We look forward to arguing our case before the Supreme Court in its next term."
The U.S. Forest Service has estimated that, if the Ninth Circuit ruling were applied nationally, it alone would have to obtain 400,000 permits. Oregon counties estimate the decision will cost them $56 million to secure permits for their 20,000 culverts. Federal and state regulators will have to completely redesign forestry programs that have been in place for a generation. In the states of the Ninth Circuit -- Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii -- the timber industry employs a million people. Nationally, it supports 2.5 million jobs and $87 billion a year in wages.
We will continue to work and support our allies as this critical issue evolves.