Empire Vegetation Management Project
The Empire Vegetation Management Project proposed by the Plumas National Forest is a fuels treatment plan that targets 10,196 acres of forest. It was first proposed in 2004. The boundary for the project encompasses 103,000 acres on the forest. The proposed action involves construction of 6,600 acres of defensible fuel profile zones, 2,400 acres of which are located in the Wildland Urban Interface. It also involves 1,226 acres of group selection logging, and approximately 2,370 acres of Individual Tree Selection.
Sierra Forest Legacy has been actively engaged in this project since its onset in 2004. After comments were submitted on the initial Environmental Impact Statement which pointed out the many flaws in the documentation, and the subsequent appeal to the Record of Decision of 2005, the Regional Office of the Forest Service reversed the decision of the Forest Supervisor to implement the preferred alternative. A similarly flawed Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was developed and issued in early 2006 and once again we were compelled to appeal the Record of Decision for that proposed action. Following this appeal in late 2006, the Forest Supervisor withdrew his decision to implement the preferred alternative. In early 2007, the Plumas National Forest issued a second Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement which we subsequently appealed on July 30, 2007.
This incredibly drawn out process is the direct result of the Plumas National Forest refusing to conduct the necessary analysis and continuing to propose an action which would have significant adverse impacts on wildlife and overreaches in its proposals for meeting fuels reduction goals. To learn more about this project and the justification for our continued opposition to the proposed action, our Notice of Appeal can be accessed in the Resources section on the right hand side of this panel.
Sierra Forest Legacy's appeal was subsequently denied by the Forest Service. Seeking injunctive relief from the District court, SFL sought to halt implementation of the Empire project, along with Basin and Slapjack in the QLF project area in the fall of 2007. Denied relief by the District court, SFL appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a favorable decision was rendered in May 2008. The appellate court found, among other things, that the Forest Service is operating under a conflict of interest, whereby revenue generated from logging old growth trees is influencing decisions about which trees are cut and where they are cut. In undeniably clear language, Judge Noonan wrote in his concurrence:
"The financial incentive of the Forest Service in implementing the forest plan is as operative, as tangible, and as troublesome as it would be if instead of an impartial agency decision the agency was the paid accomplice of the loggers."
Read the full decision here.
Read background history, and current developments in the Framework litigation, here.