A Eugene-based environmental group is suing the U.S. Forest Service, saying they took destructive emergency actions during last year’s fire season, reports the Capital Press.
Filed in the U.S. District Court in Spokane by the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in the middle of August, the lawsuit takes issue with actions taken during last year’s 65,000-acre Wolverine Fire in Chelan County.
The lawsuit contends that a “community protection line” built to protect homes in the fire’s path was “unnecessary, destructive and violated the National Environmental Policy Act’s Requirement to assess beforehand the impact of federal actions.”
The Capital Press said the line in question by the lawsuit was a 50-mile long, 30-foot wide protection line that was put in place to protect rural areas in Chelan County. The environmental group — Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics — said it was miles from the fire.
The group wants the Forest Service to review its fire-fighting policies “before continuing to give incident commanders free reign to declare an emergency.”
The Forest Service declined to comment to the Capital Press on the lawsuit.
The U.S. Forest Service uses administrative rule to take emergency measures. The lawsuit said the rule should be invalid since the Forest Service adopted it without assessing its environmental impact. Measures such as logging, building fire lines and setting back burns could impact the environment, the lawsuit alleges.
Building the community protection line required logging more than 100 acres of habitat for spotted owl and affected scenery along forest roads, the lawsuit said.
The Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics is not affiliated with any federal agency. Board members for the group are current or retired agency employees. The group sued the Forest Service in 2003 and 2008 over the US Forest Service’s use of aerial fire retardant.
In 2011, the Forest Service adopted new rules on dropping fire retardant near waterways with fish.
By The Independent Staff