On Monday in the District of Oregon, two environmental preservation nonprofits, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, initiated a legal action against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) alleging that BLM illegally allowed logging in Springfield, Ore. and Eugene, Ore. in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The APA prohibits agency action that is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law….” NEPA requires any federal agency, prior to conducting an action like logging on public land, to prepare a statement analyzing the effects of the agency action on the “quality of the human environment.” This statement must analyze the present and reasonably foreseeable effects of the proposed project, compare those effects with the range of available alternatives, and then provide the analysis to the public for comment prior to taking any action. An agency violating the reporting requirements of NEPA would also violate the APA.
The plaintiffs asserted that the BLM failed to meet the reporting requirements by preparing an environmental impact statement for public review, which lacked a proper analysis of the impact of the intended logging on the increased risk of wildfire to the homes of residents near the project site. Furthermore, stated the complaint, the BLM failed to consider reasonable alternatives to the amount of proposed logging, such as logging in areas of less dense forest or logging in areas further away from residential homes. The absence of “the proposal and the alternatives in comparative form,” averred the plaintiffs, violated NEPA’s statutory mandate of “ensuring fully informed decisions and providing for meaningful public participation in environmental analyses and decision-making.”
This is the second lawsuit brought by the plaintiffs against the BLM to prevent the logging project. In 2019, a federal district court ordered the BLM to prepare a new environmental impact statement “to fully analyze and publicly disclose the degree of fire hazard to adjacent communities that the Project is likely to increase as required by NEPA.” The plaintiffs claimed that while a new statement was prepared, no changes to the intended logging occurred. In fact, the plaintiffs concluded, the defendant even maintained a timber sale contract entered into prior to the court order mandating further analysis under the alleged assumption that no changes would prove necessary despite additional environmental study.
If successful in the legal action, the plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the current environmental impact report violates the APA, an injunction to stop any logging activity until a proper report is reviewed by the public, court costs, and attorney’s fees. The plaintiffs are represented by the Law Offices of Charles Tebbutt.