The decision on the Stanislaus lawsuit was released on Friday, Jan 5, 2013. After reviewing the decision and exchanging notes with our legal council (Paul Turke, BlueRibbon Coalition), we agree this is not a terrible decision. It is frustrating the outcome continues the tendency of the court to strike a middle ground without realizing the practical consequences in this context, i.e. encouraging death by a thousand cuts in the access, budgetary and emotional sense.
The lawsuit centered on a “minimization” issue and contends the agency never gave this serious thought. This argument was presented in the Salmon-Challis decision (ICL v Guzman) and now dozens of USFS travel decisions are modeled after what the courts are finding to be a flawed procedural template.
The court has scheduled a remedy hearing Feb 15, 2013. Paul indicated that he will participate with a filing for that hearing. There is potential that lawyers for the Department of Justice (representing the Forest Service) may request an extension. Actions undertaken by Paul will be governed by actions of the Dept of Justice and decisions by the court.
The remedy hearing will determine the next steps. The recreation interveners remain opposed to interim closures within the Stanislaus National Forest while the final court ordered actions are accomplished.
I received a phone call from a reporter for the Stockton Record reference this lawsuit.
I told him we disagreed with the decision and are awaiting action by the Forest Service and court (in reference to the remedy briefing) to determine our next step. I did say we are committed to continue fighting for access and to keep the existing network of routes as defined in the travel management plan open which we believe was adequately vetted through a valid public process.
Pro-access groups have long maintained the argument the Forest Service Travel Management Sub-Part B is a valid legal process. The issue of minimization is introduced in the TMR under the constructs of requiring the agency to designate a sustainable system of routes necessary for management of the forest and protection of resources with Sub-Part A.
The agency engaged in Sub-Part B prior to Sub-Part A. The pro-access groups maintain that the Sub-Part B actions included the “minimization” to establish a base designated route system. And, the subsequent annual review to add to or remove from the designated routes system complied with the overall intent to establish a designated system of sustainable routes, including the intent of Sub-Part A.