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Bush logging rule is reinstated

March 3, 2009 |  6:02 pm


The U.S. Supreme Court today revived a 2003 Bush administration rule that exempts small-scale logging projects from public comment and some appeals challenges.

The case originally involved a 238-acre salvage timber sale, the Burnt Ridge Project, in California's Sequoia National Forest. Under the administration rule, the U.S. Forest Service moved ahead with the sale without opening it to public comment or administrative appeal--favorite tools to challenge public lands logging.

Environmental groups sued. They won in federal district court and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a nationwide injunction on the Bush exemptions.

But in the meantime, the Forest Service dropped the Burnt Ridge project in a settlement and the area was never logged. As a result, the Supreme Court found that the groups lacked legal standing to bring their case--they couldn't demonstrate direct harm.

Matt Kenna, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, said he didn't think the portion of the opinion dealing with standing was broad enough to have much of an effect. But Indiana University law professor Robert Fischman said it was potentially far-reaching: By making it harder to gain legal standing, the decision could make it harder for environmental groups to file lawsuits.

If it does, former Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey will be smiling. Rey oversaw the Forest Service under Bush and his pet peeves were appeals and lengthy environmental reviews, which he called "analysis paralysis."

-- Bettina Boxall

Photo: Burned land in Sequoia National Forest. Credit: John Lok / Los Angeles Times