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Protecting the environment by providing legal services for forest cases of statewide significance.

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ALPS v. Washington State Forest Practices Board

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COURT INFORMATION:  Washington State Supreme Court No. 79993-8; Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II, No. 33676-6-II; Thurston County Superior Court No. 03-2-00717-7        

CLIENTS: Alpine Lakes Protection Society, Friends of the Loomis Forest, Kettle Range Conservation Group, The Mountaineers, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, Peninsula Neighborhood Association, Seattle Audubon Society, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Wilderness Coalition, Whidbey Environmental Action Network

STATUS:  The Washington State Supreme Court denied review in February 2008, terminating the case.    

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CASE BACKGROUND

Washington’s forest practices rules permit landowners, some of whom own hundreds of thousands of acres of forest, to file applications for logging on a permit-by-permit basis.  The rules do not require either the Department of Natural Resources or the landowner to look at the overall health of a watershed or species that occupy the area of the proposed harvest.  These multiple forest practices applications can and regularly do have significant adverse cumulative impacts on fish, wildlife, and scenic beauty—resulting in “death by a thousand cuts.” 

This cumulative effects loophole is compounded by the fact that most forest practices in Washington are exempt from the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).  SEPA clearly requires consideration and prevention of cumulative effects but SEPA’s purposes and policies are thwarted when forest practices are exempt.

In February 2003, WFLC filed a rulemaking petition with the Washington State Forest Practices Board arguing that the Board had both the authority and legal duty to adopt a rule that would prevent the “death by a thousand cuts” loophole.  In support of the petition, WFLC focused on extensive recent logging in the Teanaway and Carbon River valleys. 

The Board denied the petition and the Superior Court affirmed the denial in the summer of 2005.  This case went before Division II of the Court of Appeals on May 4, 2006 and the Court handed down a decision on October 10, 2006 in favor of the Defendants.  The decision was appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court, which denied review in February 2008, terminating the case.

Learn more about our efforts to address the cumulative effects of multiple forest practices.