Washington Forest Law Center
U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Ninth Circuit Ruling that Logging Roads Require NPDES Permits
March 20, 2013 – Today, in our case Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and held that NPDES permits are not required for stormwater discharges from pipes, ditches and channels along logging roads. The Court ruled for NEDC on three of the four issues presented, but ultimately deferred to EPA’s claim that its regulations did not designate logging or logging roads as an “industrial activity” subject to the NPDES permit requirement. Justice Scalia wrote a great dissent focused on the majority’s failure to give effect to EPA’s express designation of “logging” as an industrial activity.
The Supreme Court’s decision is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Logging roads continue to pollute streams and adversely impact fish habitat and water quality throughout the Pacific Northwest, so WFLC and its partners and allies will continue advocating for a regulatory program that effectively limits the harmful discharges. Please stay tuned for details about next steps.
You can read the Supreme Court’s decision here.
News media coverage:
“Group keeps up challenge to logging roads,” The Seattle Times
“Justices Back Loggers in Water Runoff Case,” The New York Times
See videos of polluted stormwater runoff.
WFLC Wins Appeal and Will Go to Trial to Protect Salmon Habitat
On March 22, 2013, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Erik D. Price upheld a decision by the Pollution Control Hearings Board to issue an injunction halting illegal logging near the Quinault River until a full trial is held on the merits. The Quinault Indian Nation had secured the injunction by successfully arguing that the logging would be in the channel migration zone of the Quinault River. Channel migration zones are the areas where rivers are likely to move in the future and protection of these areas preserves trees that are critical for developing salmon habitat. The Nation seeks to protect and restore the habitat of the blueback sockeye salmon, a unique fish integral to the Nation’s economy, culture, and religious beliefs. Learn more about the importance of the blueback salmon here (see discussion of Quinault Lake).
WFLC represented the Quinault Indian Nation on appeal and will represent the Nation in a trial before the Hearings Board, likely to be held late this summer. The case is an important step in the fight to preserve channel migration zones and also to highlight the lack of enforcement of the Forest Practices Act and regulations by the Department of Natural Resources. DNR appears to have failed to delineate the channel migration zone and approved the logging permit regardless, a practice which dilutes the effectiveness of forestry regulation in Washington. Recent DNR compliance monitoring reports indicate that these failures are standard practice, with the rate of compliance only about 60%. Lack of enforcement of forestry laws and regulations presents an enormous threat to the future of forests and salmon in Washington.
Groups Sue State for Proposing to Clear-cut Endangered Marbled Murrelet Habitat in Southwest Washington
May 29, 2012 -- Today, on behalf of Seattle Audubon Society and Olympic Forest Coalition, WFLC filed a lawsuit against the State of Washington and the elected Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark. The suit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges the State’s and Lands Commissioner’s May 1, 2012 - adopted proposal to clear-cut approximately 12,000 acres of older-growth potential marbled murrelet habitat in SW Washington violated the State Environmental Policy Act. The lawsuit asks the Court to require DNR to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for its proposal to conduct this logging that carefully considers long and short-term environmental impacts and alternatives.
Read the Complaint.
Photo by David Perry
SFI Complaint Filed Against Weyerhaeuser for Irresponsible Logging on Steep and Unstable Slopes
On October 1, 2009, on behalf of Sierra Club, WFLC filed a complaint against Weyerhaeuser challenging the company’s “green” certified forestry conducted in Southwest Washington. Weyerhaeuser’s forests are certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification system.
The complaint alleges that Weyerhaeuser violated several of SFI’s environmental standards when it conducted logging and roadbuilding on extremely steep and unstable slopes. During a storm in December 2007, many of these slopes produced massive landslides which delivered large quantities of wood and sediment to rivers and streams, exacerbating flooding that damaged private property and public resources.
The complaint asks SFI to suspend or revoke Weyerhaeuser’s certification and to prescribe conditions ensuring that Weyerhaeuser reforms its practices.
Read Architecture Week’s October 23 article, “High Tension Over Big Timber.”
WFLC Files Complaints Against SFI Forest Certification System
Sept. 10, 2009 -- On behalf of ForestEthics, WFLC filed complaints against the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) forest certification system with the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. The FTC complaint alleges that SFI engages in deceptive and misleading national advertising; the IRS complaint reports SFI for potentially inappropriately using a tax-exempt “public charity” for funding, operating, and marketing its private forest certification label. The filing of these complaints was covered by The New York Times on Saturday, September 12. Learn more.
Why Have We Taken On SFI? Read WFLC director Peter Goldman’s statement.