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Happy Earth Day: Court Rules Against Environmentalists, Approves Timber Sales In National Forest

Today is Earth Day, so it'd be bad karma to derail a Muni bus, toss plastic bags in the ocean, or randomly scatter wads of used chewing gum on the sidewalks (in fact, these are always bad karma). But the U.S. government can cut down its share of trees in a national forest, thanks to a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The San Francisco federal court ruled against plaintiffs WildWest Institute and The Ecology Center in allowing the U.S. Department of Forestry to commence with nine "timber sale and restoration projects" in Montana's 2.2 million acre Kootenai National Forest.

While the plaintiffs claim the Forest Service has demonstrated a "chronic failure" to responsibly administer the forest, the three-judge panel found no evidence that government management practices have degraded the area -- and ruled that, in some cases, the land has been improved. All of the nine projects were subject to rigorous environmental impact reports, the court added.

Like a grumpy bear, the court's recent ruling also batted away the plaintiffs' arguments that the proposed projects threatened the survival of the forest's woodpecker population and that the government was skimping on the amount of old growth vegetation it maintained in the forest.

"We conclude the Forest Service complied with the substantive requirements of the [National Forest Management Act] and the Forest Plan," reads the synopsis of the 27-page ruling. "The Forest Service also took the requisite 'hard look' at the environmental affects of the projects. The district court properly entered summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service."

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