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Idaho Lawsuit status

Discussion in 'Land Use' started by mudfanatic, Feb 23, 2000.

  1. mudfanatic

    mudfanatic 1/2 ton status

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    Location:
    Aloha, Oregon
    February 18, 2000 (208) 334-4112

    COURT WARNS FOREST SERVICE WHILE FINDING IDAHO SUED TOO SOON

    (Boise) - Idaho will not be permitted to go forward at this time with it's
    lawsuit against the United States Forest Service. The Federal District Court
    in Boise issued an order this morning granting the Forest Service's motion
    to dismiss the State's lawsuit.

    Attorney General Al Lance filed the lawsuit on December 30 on behalf of
    Governor Dirk Kempthorne and the Idaho Land Board. The state was
    asking the court for a preliminary injunction ordering the Forest Service to
    extend the time allowed for public comment on the massive roadless plan.

    In dismissing the state's case, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled that
    the state had asked the court to intervene before the court had authority to
    do so. Judge Lodge said the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
    dictates that the state must wait until there is a "final agency action"
    before the court can intervene.

    The Court did not address the merits of Idaho's claims, but warned the
    Forest Service that it should do so. "As stewards of the federal funds
    being expended to complete the NEPA process on the proposed action,
    the Forest Service should make every effort to ensure that the process
    is properly implemented with reasonable time frames to allow meaningful
    participation by the public," Judge Lodge said in his written order."It
    appears at least arguable to this Court that the Forest Service may be
    inviting error and a necessary review of its actions by ignoring the
    objections of the Plaintiffs for a meaningful scoping process."

    The Court went on to chastise the Forest Service for failing to disclose its
    intentions. "When the areas contemplated to be roadless are not defined or
    shown by way of maps or otherwise illustrated, one does not have to be
    learned in the law to determine the public's participation will hardly be
    'meaningful.'" the Court said. "The sheer magnitude of this governmental
    action involving 40 to 60 million acres nationwide that precipitated 500,000
    comments in sixty days is the best evidence the Forest Service should
    proceed with caution. Time is not of the essence on an issue that has been
    studied for over 30 years."

    Attorney General Lance said the state will carefully review the order
    before deciding the next step. However, Lance added that the state
    will continue to work for a meaningful and open public process.

    "It appears that the court's hands were tied by a rather absurd federal
    statute," Attorney General Lance said. "The law says the Forest Service must

    facilitate the 'active participation' of states and tribes. But apparently
    the same law precludes the courts from intervening until the decision is
    made and the damage has been done. If there is no other way, we'll wait
    until the Forest Service formally announces the decision President Clinton
    has already made and then seek relief."

    On October 19, 1999 the Forest Service published a vaguely worded
    "Notice of Intent" in The Federal Register announcing a rulemaking
    process for "roadless" areas under the National Environmental Policy Act
    (NEPA). The proposal appears to impact at least 50 million acres nationwide
    and 9 million acres in Idaho.

    The Forest Service notice allowed only 60 days for public comment on a
    project that President Clinton described as "one of the largest land
    preservation efforts in America's history." The Forest Service has
    said it will complete the Environmental Impact Statement and make a
    final decision by the end of this year.

    When Lance sued, the Forest Service had failed to meet the Freedom
    of Information Act's deadline to provide public documents related to the
    roadless proposal. Some, but not all, of those documents have since been
    provided. Lance has filed an administrative appeal with the Forest Service
    to obtain either the withheld documents or an adequate explanation as to
    why they were upheld.

    The Forest Service also ignored written requests for an extended
    comment period from Governor Kempthorne, Attorney General Lance,
    and the attorneys general of 7 other western states.

    The court did not dismiss the lawsuits brought by other parties raising
    different legal issues related to the roadless plan. Those plaintiffs are
    the Intermountain Forest Association, the Idaho State Snowmobile Association
    and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.
     

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