Saturday, 17 November 2007 14:02
Forest Planning Process
STEP FIVE: Litigation
WHAT IT IS: Before going to court you must, under law, exhaust your administrative remedies.
If the Forest Service is preparing an environmental assessment or EIS for a project, there will also likely be an opportunity for administrative appeal. For projects that are categorically excluded from NEPA, there will be relatively little public involvement.
If you have: submitted timely written comments during the planning process, filed an objection, and your objection was at least partially denied, you have met this requirement.
If you want to pursue your concerns further, one option is to file a lawsuit in federal court.
However, litigation is often costly and controversial, and there is no guarantee that a court will even hear the merits of your lawsuit. Your case could be thrown out for a variety of technical and procedural reasons, such as for lack of "standing" (you must show that your interests will be injured) or "ripeness" (you must show that it is not too soon for the court to consider your case).
WHAT YOU CAN DO: You should always consult with an attorney who is experienced in environmental and public land management cases. Among other things, the attorney can advise you whether the issues you want to raise are likely to be heard by a court now, or whether it would be better to wait for a site-specific activity to demonstrate the plan's on-the-ground effects.
There are numerous non-profit environmental law firms that frequently advise or represent citizens in forest plan litigation. There are also several recreation groups that maintain legal staff to advise or represent citizens in forest plan litigation.
Some private attorneys or commercial law firms also may be willing to pursue forest plan litigation on a reduced fee or pro bono (no charge) basis.