On Friday the 9th Circuit Federal Court ruled that the US Forest Service’s plan to open national forest land in the Sierra Nevada to increased logging and road building and less restricted stock grazing needs to address how those changes would impact water sources and the fish that live in them. The Court’s 3-judge panel sent the plan back to district court which will decide what steps must be taken by the Forest Service next.
“In the same way the water in the Sierra is used by millions of people, it’s also the water resource that fish require all the way down to the ocean,” said Chris Frissell of the Pacific Rivers Council, which sued the Forest Service.
“Our main objective is not to stop a bunch of projects,” Frissell said. “Our goal has been to raise the bar for how the Forest Service treats water resources and fisheries.”
The original plan that was adopted in 2001 after years of study would have done more to protect the environmental health of the national forests. But private interests, including timber companies and ranchers, complained that they were being shut out and the Bush administration was intent on permitting more development on public land so changes were made that allowed increased exploitation of public land for private gain.
The Sierra Forest Legacy, whose member groups include The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Friends of the River, and the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, is another entity focused on the health of the region.