In a move questioned by the Ruffed Grouse Society, other wildlife conservationists and the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has further politicized wildlife habitat management on our nation’s public and private forest lands by promulgating a revised forestry rule on the eve of the high court’s consideration of the issue.
In August, 2012, the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) filed a brief with the Supreme Court in a case affecting wildlife habitat management across the nation. The case in question was filed by preservationists who suggest that rainwater runoff from forest roads should be classified as an “industrial pollutant” and regulated by the federal government if as the rainwater flows downhill it passes through a culvert. The 9th Circuit Court in California agreed with the preservationists and overturned an effective and reasonable rule used by the EPA for 35 years to aid in controlling rainwater runoff.
Should the federal regulatory mandate imposed by the 9th Circuit’s decision be allowed to stand, the owners of family farms, ranchlands and forested tracts could face costly, cumbersome and needless regulatory hurdles simply to manage their lands to enhance habitats for game, non-game or imperiled wildlife.
The Supreme Court agreed to review the case at the request of attorneys general from 31 states, private landowner associations, representatives from the forest products industry and numerous other interests. Oral arguments were heard by the Supreme Court on December 3rd.
In a blatantly political move, the EPA issued a revision of the rule in question the day before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the case. Many court observers felt that the Supreme Court would issue a decision that might run counter to the interests of the Administration. However, the EPA’s maneuver could result in the Supreme Court dismissing the case thereby allowing the preservation groups to institute new litigation over the revised rule and preserving the groups’ sizeable claims for attorneys’ fees in the case.
“It is unfortunate that the EPA has taken the side of partisan politics rather than common sense conservation” stated John Eichinger, President and CEO of the Ruffed Grouse Society.
A decision on the case is expected from the Supreme Court by June, 2013.
Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is the one international wildlife conservation organization dedicated to promoting conditions suitable for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and related wildlife to sustain our sport hunting tradition and outdoor heritage.
Image courtesy Ruffed Grouse Society