The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) this week filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) challenging its latest forest planning rule. The groups are joined by multiple industry organizations, such as the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, in filing suit claiming that the new planning rule, finalized in March 2012, violates the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the Multiple-Use, Sustained-Yield Act (MUSYA) of 1960 and the Administrative Procedures Act.
The new planning rule is flawed in multiple respects, according to PLC Executive Director Dustin Van Liew. The rule requires USFS to "maintain a viable population of each species of conservation concern within the plan area." The ill-defined term "viable population" is a vague term that opens the door to even more litigation by radical special interest groups. The rule also effectively turns USFS guidelines into legally enforceable standards, throwing away hard-fought victories establishing that guidelines are discretionary - not mandatory - and tying the hands of land managers unnecessarily.
In the new forest planning rule, the general focus is on ecosystem services, sustainability, preservation and even "spiritual values" over multiple-use, a clear diversion from the statutes governing management of our national forests. The new rule also fails to reflect MUSYA and NFMA requirements governing active-land management for multiple uses, including livestock grazing, timber management and recreation.
Van Liew said he is confident that an in-depth review of the forest planning rule will show that the regulation is a clear violation of law.