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Sierra Club v. United States Forest Service

 

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The Sierra Club challenged proposed salvage timber sales at the Warner Creek area of Oregon, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In 1991, Warner Creek burned in an arson fire. It was a habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl. The Forest Service desired to log the area in order to recover the spotted owl habitat.

Congress enacted section 2001(b) of the Rescissions Act of 1995 (Salvage Rider) after the Sierra Club brought this action. Section 2001(b) eliminates the need to follow NEPA for salvage timber sales.[1] The Salvage Rider applies to salvage timber sales “in preparation” when Congress enacted the Salvage Rider. The court found that a sale, which the Forest Service had not yet advertised, was “in preparation,” thus the Salvage Rider applied and nullified the NEPA claim. The court also found that section 2001(k) of the Salvage Rider covered a sale which the Forest Service had advertised and offered, and rendered a challenge to that sale moot.

The court found that the enactment of the Salvage Rider nullified Sierra Club’s challenge to the Warner Creek sale. The Salvage Rider applied to all salvage timber sales “in preparation” on the date of its enactment. The Forest Service had not yet advertised part of the sale at Warner Creek at the time of the enactment. The court held that Congress used the word “prepare” in describing a series of steps to take for a sale. “Prepare” came before the word “advertise” several times in the Salvage Rider. The court reasoned that in using the word “prepare” to describe the stages of a salvage timber sale, Congress showed its intention that “preparation,” “embody the activity necessary to reach the next stage–advertisement.”[2] Thus the court reasoned that if the Forest Service had not yet advertised a sale, then it was “in preparation” and thus the Salvage Rider covered the sale, which consequently nullifies a NEPA challenge.

The second sale Sierra Club challenged the Forest Service had advertised and offered before the enactment of the Salvage Rider. All parties agreed that section 2001(b) did not apply. However, the court found that the Salvage Rider preempted any NEPA challenge. Section 2001(k) required that the Secretary release sales which the Forest Service offered before the enactment. The court stated that section 2001(k) mandated the release of these sales regardless of NEPA violations. Therefore the court was unable to grant any relief because the Forest Service offered the sale before the enactment of the Salvage Rider.


[1]16 U.S.C. § 1611 (1994 & Supp. 1995).

[2] Sierra Club, 93 F.3d at 613.

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