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

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

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The Mountaineers v. DNR and Plum Creek Timber Company

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This case involved a series of large ugly Plum Creek Timber Company clear-cuts across from Mount Rainier National Park.

COURT INFORMATION:  Thurston County Superior Court No. 02-2-00490-1; Washington Forest Practices Appeals Board No. 00-029

CLIENTS:  The Mountaineers and two citizens of the town of Wilkeson, Washington

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CASE DETAILS:

This case involved a series of large ugly Plum Creek Timber Company clearcuts one mile from the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.  This is an area in which Plum Creek has conducted extensive clearcut logging next to the Park over a number of years.

Plum Creek clearcut at entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park, photo courtesy of Eric Harlow

There were two primary issues in this case:  

  1. May forest landowners, like Plum Creek, incrementally file permits that are individually exempt from review under the State Environmental Policy Act when, cumulatively, these exemptions are having serious adverse impacts on wildlife and the scenic beauty of the area?
  2. Must the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) take into account the impact on aesthetic values when approving logging proposals adjacent to recreationally- and scenically-significant places, such as national parks and major public hiking trails?


WFLC obtained a precedent-setting ruling from the Forest Practices Appeals Board.  The Appeals Board ruled that DNR must take into account the cumulative environmental effect of “operationally linked” logging when it approves permits such as Plum Creek’s.  The Appeals Board did not rule on what “operationally linked” means but held it does not include logging permits that are merely adjacent to one another. 

The ruling evoked the filing of two other cases related to the cumulative effects of multiple forest practices in a specific area.  Click here to learn more.