Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Supreme Court forestry decision lauded

From the Pacific Legal Foundation:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 3, 2009 — Ruling in agreement with arguments submitted by Pacific Legal Foundation, the Supreme Court today restricted environmental organizations from challenging forest clean-up plans when the environmentalists cannot show they have suffered any direct harm.

"This ruling is a victory in the fight to prevent catastrophic forest fires, because it makes it harder for environmental groups with an ideological agenda to block responsible forest-management plans to clear away dead and rotting timber," said PLF Litigation Director James S. Burling.

"The Supreme Court's decision also protects basic principles of representative government," Burling continued. "Judges aren’t lawmakers and the judiciary isn't a policy-making forum. You must be directly harmed by a policy before you can bring a lawsuit against it. If you can't show real harm, the place to air your grievance - in a democracy - is Congress or the state legislature, not the courts."

PLF is the nation's leading legal watchdog for property rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulation.

The case decided today is Summers v. Earth Island Institute. It concerns a timber salvage plan for a portion of the Sequoia National Forest that had been damaged by fire in 2002. The Forest Service had established rules that expedited salvage and restoration activities for very small – less than 250 acres – sections of previously burned forest.

Although their members visited only one particular area in the Sequoia, the environmentalists claimed the right to challenge the rule as it applied nationwide.

The Forest Service settled with the environmentalists, agreeing not to salvage the Sequoia plot. Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit went on to throw out two of the expedited nationwide1 rules – even after the settlement and even though the environmental plaintiffs had not shown that their members were affected by any similar salvage plans elsewhere in the United States.

Today, the Supreme Court held, 5-4, that the environmental groups lacked standing to litigate the issue before the Ninth Circuit because, after the Sequoia salvage plan had been dropped, the plaintiffs could not claim any real harm or concrete interest in the regulations.

More about the decision here.

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