EPIC, et al. v. USFS (Knob Timber Sale, Klamath National Forest)

EPIC, et al. v. USFS (Knob Timber Sale, Klamath National Forest)

No. 04-15931

June 23, 2006

The Knob Timber Sale, in the Salmon River basin of the Klamath National Forest, was one of several USFS projects to emerge from the Comet Timber Sale. The Comet Sale was an ill-advised “experiment” in the consequences of removing mature and old-growth forest habitat for sensitive species monitored under the Survey and Manage program. EPIC and allies halted the Comet project through administrative appeals. The Forest Service then broke the many Comet units into two groups. The first was packaged as the new Knob Timber Sale. The second group offered after required surveys was packaged as the Meteor Timber Sale.

EPIC and others appealed the Knob Timber Sale, then went to court when the appeal was rejected. One central concern was that the Knob Environmental Assessment had failed to reflect the potential cumulative effects of related projects, especially including Meteor. EPIC drew a hostile judge in the Eastern District California court, lost at district court and thus proceeded to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In oral arguments before that court Department of Justice lawyers claimed—and may even have believed—that the USFS hadn’t planned Meteor when Knob EA was written so the agency wasn’t required to assess those cumulative effects.

The 9th Circuit’s opinion was quite hostile as well. The crowning irony to this struggle came when the USFS was unable to attract any bids for this hugely subsidized and unnecessarily destructive timber sale. After repeated failures to find a buyer, the project was withdrawn in 2009.