June 11, 2009

Four Southern California forest plan biological opinions overturned

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

This week Judge Patel of the Northern District of California ruled in Center for Biological Diversity v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service that the Service had violated the ESA by failing to include incidental take statements as part of four biological opinions covering revised forest management plans for the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino National Forests.  The nub of the Service's defense was that the plans could never "cause" a take of any protected species; rather, only the site-specific management actions that might be taken in the future, pursuant to the plans, could cause a take.  The court rejected the argument, holding that "a higher-level plan does affect the environment albeit indirectly."  The LA Times has this report on the decision.

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