Lastly, plaintiffs contend that the EIS fails to demonstrate compliance
with the Forest Plan in that it does not assess the negative, long-term
impacts on soil organic matter and nutrients of removing trees from the
project area. The Forest Plan requires that "the upper 12 inches of soil
[be] at least 85 percent of the total soil organic found under
undisturbed conditions for the same or similar soils." See AR 6763.
Here, the EIS compared the level of soil cover expected after each
treatment alternative, including the "No Action Alternative," and
concluded that "it is very unlikely that the fuel treatments would
collectively lower the overall productivity of these soils (in terms of
vegetation and other resource values they support) by more than a few
percent in the short or long term." See AR 359. The Court concludes,
therefore, that the EIS adequately demonstrated compliance with the
Forest Plans requirements with respect to soil organic matter.
Accordingly, the EIS violates NFMA by failing to demonstrate compliance
with the Forest Plan directive with respect to soil porosity but complies
with NFMA in all other respects.
C. Injunctive Relief
Plaintiffs assert that implementation of the Phase 1 Logging Project
should be enjoined until the Forest Service prepares an EIS that complies
with the requirements of NEPA and NFMA. In determining whether to issue
an injunction where an agency has failed to comply with environmental
laws, a court "must balance the competing claims of injury and must
consider the effect on each party of the granting or withholding of the
requested relief" See Amoco Production Company v. Village of Gambell,
480 U.S. 531, 542 (1987). "[A]n injunction is an equitable remedy that
does not issue as a matter of course." See id. Even where an agency has
failed to comply with an environmental statute, "a federal judge . . . is
not mechanically obligated to grant an injunction for every violation of
law." See id. (quoting Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 313
Here, plaintiffs have demonstrated that the environment may suffer
irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued and logging commences
prior to the completion of an adequate EIS. See Portland Audubon Society
v. Lujan, 795 F. Supp. 1489, 1509 (D. or 1992) ("Courts in this circuit
have recognized that timber cutting causes irreparable damage and have
enjoined cutting when it occurs without proper observance of NEPA
procedures and other environmental laws."); AR 3780 ("There is
considerable evidence that persistent, significant adverse environmental
impacts are likely to result from salvage logging.") Although the Forest
Service asserts that the environment may suffer harm if Phase 1 is not
implemented, neither the Court nor the Forest Service can assess the
likelihood of such harm until a complete EIS is prepared.
The Forest Service contends that it must begin Phase 1 immediately to
reduce the risk that surrounding communities would be placed in danger by
another catastrophic wildfire. The Forest Supervisor admits, however,
that there is no significant risk of another intense wildfire within the
next five years. (See Woltering Decl. ¶ 13). While small wildfires
can start at any time, the Phase 1 project area currently contains
insufficient fuels to create an intense wildfire. See AR 359 (stating
that risk of intense fire "is not high at present, but in 5 to 10 years
the risk would be considerably greater as fuels build up in these
units.") In fact, implementation of the Phase 1 project may actually
increase fire risk in the short-term. See AR 305 ("The No Action
alterative would have the
lowest hazard in the short-term"); Fink Dec.
Ex. D [Everett Report] at 5 ("Current research . . . suggests that
salvage logging areas may have elevated fire hazard over tree retention
sites for the first 20 years, but retention sites would have elevated
fire hazard from then into the future.") Thus, the Forest Service has
failed to demonstrate that it would be unable to prepare an adequate EIS
and implement its plan before communities are placed at risk of an
In light of the potential for detrimental effects on the environment
and the unlikelihood that the Forest Service or public will suffer harm
during the pendency of an injunction, plaintiffs are entitled to an
injunction prohibiting implementation of the Phase 1 project until the
Forest Service prepares an adequate EIS.
For the reasons stated, the Court rules as follows:
1. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby GRANTED and
defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby DENIED.
2. Defendant is hereby ENJOINED from any further implementation of the
Phase 1 logging project on the Six Rivers National Forest pending the
completion of a
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that meets the requirements
of NEPA and NFMA.
This order terminates Docket Nos. 21, 29, and 36.
The Clerk shall close the file.
IT IS SO ORDERED.