The Ruffed Grouse Society applauds  the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision to reverse a 9th Circuit Court ruling to further regulate forest management — a judgment that was potentially devastating to forest wildlife habitat.  The reversal makes a strong statement against additional and unnecessary permitting of forest management practices and is good news for forest wildlife.

In 2010, the 9th Circuit Court in California ruled that rainwater runoff from forest roads caused by timber harvest and other forest management activities was an “industrial pollutant”, and therefore subject to permitting regulations under the Clean Water Act authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency. This overturned 35 years of existing harvesting practices and regulatory interpretation.

If allowed to stand, the decision would require that all landowners, including private individuals, spend considerable amounts of time and money to apply for appropriate permits through the EPA. This process would greatly discourage private individuals from implementing management practices on their lands. Such a decision would drastically reduce the habitat availability for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other forest wildlife that thrive on the young forest habitat created only through forest management . Undoubtedly, the regulations would expand to a nationwide mandate.

Because of the potential negative impacts on forest habitat development, the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) filed an Amicus Curiae brief with the Supreme Court prior to its decision.  Oral arguments were heard in December 2012, and the final decision came downMarch 20, 2013.

The Supreme Court determined that the EPA has been historically consistent in interpreting its own rule to not require such permitting for forest road runoff, and therefore, the agency’s interpretation should receive deference unless plainly erroneous or inconsistent. In addition, multiple states have existing best management practices for addressing rainwater runoff on logging roads, so additional federal regulation would simply be duplicative or counterproductive. The attorneys general for 31 states joined with RGSto file briefs with the Supreme Court in opposition to the 9th Circuit ruling.

Logo courtesy Ruffed Grouse Society

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