United States District Court, D. Idaho
WILDLANDS DEFENSE; ALLIANCE FOR THE WILD ROCKIES; and NATIVE ECOSYSTEMS COUNCIL Plaintiff,
CECILIA SEESHOLTZ, in her official capacity as Boise National Forest Supervisor; TONY TOOKE, in his official capacity as Chief of the United States Forest Service; UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE; and UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill, United States District Court Chief Judge
Court has before it a motion for a temporary restraining
order filed by plaintiffs Wildlands Defense, Alliance for the
Wild Rockies, and Native Ecosystems Council. The plaintiffs
seek to enjoin two salvage logging projects in the Boise
National Forest. Because some of the logging is scheduled to
begin tomorrow, the Court must consider this motion on an
extremely expedited basis with no oral argument and little
time for reflection. Accordingly, this decision is entitled
to a limited precedential value. For the reasons discussed
below, the motion is denied.
2016, the Pioneer Fire burned over 190, 000 acres in the
Boise National Forest. Fueled by hot and dry conditions, the
Pioneer Fire burned for more than four months, causing
significant damage to an area frequently used for recreation.
The blackened forest areas included an extensive network of
backcountry yurts, trails for motorized and nonmotorized use,
and a road system that connects to areas north such as Bear
Valley and Deadwood Reservoir.
September 2016, the Forest Service began working with
interested parties to devise a restoration plan. In this
collaborative effort, the Forest Service met with state,
local, and tribal government officials, as well as groups
representing timber, recreation, and environmental interests.
the Boise Forest Coalition was involved with the Forest
Service in the planning process. The Boise Forest Coalition
is a group of environmentalists, timber interests, private
citizens, and governmental officials. They make
recommendations to the Forest Service based on a consensus of
their members. Ultimately, the Boise Forest Coalition
approved both projects at issue in this case.
projects are known as the North Pioneer Project and the South
Pioneer Project. The project areas were separated based on
the watershed basin: The North Pioneer Project will be
conducted in a watershed that flows into the Payette River,
while the South Pioneer Project will be conducted in a
watershed that flows into the Boise River. The two areas also
have a different mix of recreational, social, and economic
needs that warranted a separate analysis.
Forest Service designed both projects to: (1) remove hazard
trees that posed a risk of falling across roads and trails,
and injuring the recreating public; (2) restore forest
health, and specifically restore conifer species such as
ponderosa pine; (3) improve watershed conditions by
decommissioning unauthorized roads currently degrading
watershed conditions, and (4) conduct salvage logging before
the dead timber deteriorates and loses its economic value.
The profit made from the salvage logging will allow the
Forest Service to fund the first three purposes listed above.
projects, the Forest Service will log about 70 million board
feet of dead trees and hazard trees. Hazard trees are those
trees that are likely to fall across a road or public area,
restrict transportation, or cause injury to the public or
property. This salvage logging would occur on 7.8% of the
area burned in the Pioneer Fire. About 65% of the logging in
the North Pioneer Project involves the removal of hazard
trees, and about 56% of the logging in the South Pioneer
Project will involve the removal of hazard trees.
project areas contain Bull Trout and Canada Lynx, listed
species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and contain
their critical habitat. The Forest Service drafted a
Biological Assessment (BA) concluding that neither project
would adversely affect either species or their critical
habitat. The Forest Service then requested that the Fish
& Wildlife Service (FWS) review that determination, and
the agency agreed to do so. On May 23, 2017, the FWS issued
its determination concluding that “the Service concurs
with the Forest Service's finding that the two projects
are not likely to adversely affect bull trout, bull trout
critical habitat, and Canada Lynx.” See SP050188;
days later, on May 25, 2017, the Forest Service Regional
Forester requested that the Forest Service Chief issue an
Emergency Situation Determination (ESD) so that the two
projects could begin immediately without waiting for the
90-day objection period. To issue an ESD, the Forest Chief
must find that the immediate implementation of the project
was necessary for “for relief from hazards threatening
human health and safety” or to avoid “a loss of
commodity value sufficient to jeopardize the agency's
ability to accomplish project objectives directly related to
resource protection or restoration.” See 36
C.F.R. §§ 218.21(b).
the Forest Chief found that both grounds applied: (1) The
burned trees constituted a hazard to the public and to
reforestation efforts, and (2) delay would result in
deterioration of the trees, causing a loss in value of over
$1 million and jeopardizing the reforestation plans contained
in both Projects that would be funded by those revenues.
NP079084; SP079479. The Forest Service Chief issued
the ESDs on May 31, 2017.
23, 2017, the Forest Service issued its Environmental
Assessment for the North Pioneer Project, concluding that an
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was not necessary
because the project would not have a significant impact on
the environment. ...