November 07, 2006
The Mouse that Roared
In an opinion delivered in Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands v. Bureau of Land Management on November 6th, the Ninth Circuit enjoined two timber sales from going forward, finding that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in its treatment of the red tree vole (the rodent at left). In 2001, the BLM created a six-category Survey and Manage species classification system within the Northwest Forest Plan. The red tree vole was assigned to Category C, which afforded the critter some habitat protections. One year later, the vole was downgraded to Category D, and in 2003 the vole was removed from the Survey and Manage designation system entirely.
Because of the changes in the categorization of the vole, the BLM did not conduct pre-disturbance sruveys for the vole in connection with the two challenged timber sales, and it issued Findings of No Significant Impact with respect to both sales. In connection with one of those sales, the BLM acknowledged that if vole nests existed within the units to be harvested, they would likely be destroyed.
The court concluded that because the two challneged timber sales did not "conform to the approved [resource management] plan[s]" (43 C.F.R. s. 1610.5-3), they are invalid and must be enjoined.
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