Allow the Forest Service to do its job without frivolous lawsuits
Last week, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies’ Michael Garrity issued a response to Rep. Ryan Zinke’s August 11 guest column (see copy on this page) about his forest reform bill. In his response, Garrity said “Zinke claimed that we have spotted owls in Montana and that logging somehow prevents forest fires.” However, a quick review of Zinke’s column indicates he actually wrote: “Frivolous lawsuits are at the heart of forest reform. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies launched more than 150 predatory lawsuits targeting legal and healthy forest projects in just the last 10 years alone. During one such project they litigated on the grounds of preserving spotted owl habitat, the forest actually caught fire and burned down for a second time during the time it took to try the case, destroying the entire area, along with the owl’s habitat.”
Why would Mr. Garrity forward such a misrepresentation of Zinke’s statement?
You actually don’t have to look very far to find motive for Garrity’s attack. Last November, the Helena Independent Record published an article about the relatively high level of litigation in the US Forest Service Northern Region. In the article, the Forest Service revealed 40-54 percent of the region’s planned timber harvest volume was encumbered by litigation. The agency added more than 70 projects were litigated between 2008 and 2013. The leading litigant was the Alliance for the Wild Rockies — which according to an IR story in October 2014 — was a plaintiff in 212 lawsuits against the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife Service since 1989. The Alliance averages nearly nine lawsuits per year, keeping their attorneys busy and tying the hands of federal forest management. In fact, a federal General Accountability Office report in 2010 revealed the Alliance filed more appeals of Forest Service projects than any other organization in the entire nation —putting them on par with Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council — which collected millions of tax payer dollars in attorney fees from suing the government.