CSF Supports Effort to Undo Crippling Decision Undermining Forest Health

Highlights

  • Last week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and 32 organizations sent a letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee expressing support for a Congressional fix to the Ninth Circuit Court’s Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. United States Forest Service ruling.
  • The Cottonwood ruling requires the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the programmatic level, which slows, and in many cases, blocks essential forest management projects.

Why it matters: The Cottonwood decision prevents our nation’s forest managers from utilizing active management practices to improve our forests including timber harvests, timber stand improvement, thinning, and prescribed fire, among others. As a result, our forest managers are limited in their ability to improve habitat, increase forest resiliency to reduce the threat of wildfire, control forest disease, and improve access for sportsmen and women. A Congressional fix to Cottonwood would remedy this hinderance and give our forest managers the flexibility they need to restore the health of our federal forests.

On October 20, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and 32 of the nation’s leading sporting-conservation organizations sent a letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in strong support of a legislative fix to the 2015 Cottonwood decision.

Despite bipartisan support for a solution to the Cottonwood decision, there has been no long-term solution. However, in the 2018, the Consolidated Appropriations Act did adjust consultation requirements for the USFS and BLM, but this is only a temporary fix as the adjusted requirements expire on March 23, 2023.

Wildfires on federal lands continue to negatively impact wildlife habitat and watershed health, particularly in the West. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that over 80 million acres need restoration, and Cottonwood related litigation continues to stymy forest health improvements projects. Reinitiating consultation at the plan when new information about a listed species or critical habitat becomes available is unnecessary and redundant as land management plans do not authorize on-the-ground projects, and individual projects adequately assess potential impacts to listed species on a project-by-project basis.

Remedying the Cottonwood decision is long overdue, and CSF will continue supporting efforts to fix Cottonwood.

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