Wide range of groups support appeal of logging roads case


Brian Boyle, Washington’s Public Lands Commissioner from 1981-1993, has an op-ed in the Seattle Times this week that advocates for a solution to the federal logging roads case that has wound its way through the courts for several years now.

As Boyle points out, the case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court so a resolution is near. The court decided in June to take the case, will hear oral arguments in November and is expected to rule by June 2013.

The stakes are high, Boyle writes.

If the Supreme Court upholds the 9th Circuit decision, then federal permits would be required for every stream, culvert and fish passage on every active logging road in the West. This would leave landowners vulnerable and allow activist groups to legally contest every permit for no real environmental gain.

If the high court overturns the appeals-court decision, it will affirm that protecting clean water through state forest-practice rules is better than duplicative federal permits. Forest owners will have the long-term economic and legal certainty they need to keep their land safe from development.

The state forest-practice rules have worked well in Washington, Boyle says.

Even through the worst housing crisis in our nation’s history, the state’s forest owners have remained committed to protecting water quality and fish habitat. Since the state’s Forests and Fish Law was approved a decade ago, large forest landowners have improved 18,700 miles of logging roads and opened 4,700 passages for fish and 2,600 miles of fish habitat. Last year was especially productive, with the opening of 1,000 fish passages and restoration of 900 miles of fish habitat.

In recent weeks, about 40 groups have filed or signed on to “friends of the court” briefs to the Supreme Court in support of overturning the Ninth Circuit decision. All the briefs can be seen on the court’s blog, though they take a few days to show up online after filing.

The support has come from forestry groups, such as the National Alliance of Forest Owners and Society of American Foresters, and from farm groups, like the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

But the support has been much broader than that. The National Governors Association (the “collective voice of the nation’s governors”) just filed a brief, joined by the National Association of Counties and National Conference of State Legislatures, among others.

The National Alliance of Forest Owners put it best:

“The broad opposition to the Ninth Circuit’s decision is clearer than ever,” said Dave Tenny, President and CEO of NAFO. “The briefs filed today represent the who’s who of stakeholders harmed by the Ninth Circuit’s cavalier rewrite of the law. NAFO members were joined by farmers and ranchers, governors, county executives, academics, law professors, wildlife groups, state attorneys general, the Obama Administration and others all united in opposition to the Ninth Circuit’s decision. The message to the Justices is clear – please fix this now, and fix it right.”