Forest Owners and States Ask Supreme Court to Reverse Ninth Circuit on Forest Roads
A bi-partisan, geographically diverse group of twenty-six state Attorneys General joined forest owners and industry groups in filing briefs asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that rainwater runoff from forest roads used for timber harvest is a "point source" of water pollution under the Clean Water Act. The 9th Circuit's decision in NEDC v. Brown overturned a thirty-five-year-old Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation treating forest roads as "nonpoint" sources. The Court declared for the first time that rainwater control systems on forest roads must have CWA permits similar to those required for factories and wastewater treatment facilities. The Supreme Court briefs seek to restore over three decades of successful Environmental Protection Agency policy and law regulating rainwater runoff from forest roads through best management practices (BMPs) developed and implemented by individual states.
David P. Tenny, President and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), stated that, "We are pleased but not surprised by the broad, bipartisan opposition to the 9th Circuit's unfortunate decision. With the stroke of a pen the Court has rewritten one of the EPA's best Clean Water Act success stories. By requiring industrial discharger permits for working forests, the Court is replacing flexible and highly effective BMPs with onerous permit requirements that will create unnecessary red tape for forest owners and managers and expose them to private lawsuits filed by individuals opposed to timber harvest. The resulting costs and uncertainty will make sustainable forest management much less affordable, reduce access to forests for hunting and recreation, hasten job loss at a time of unprecedented economic hardship, and force more private forests into non-forest uses. The Court's decision is both bad law and bad policy."
NAFO supports EPA's current policy of regulating rainwater runoff at the state level using broadly supported BMPs. "Forestry has never been a major contributor to water pollution, and has been successfully regulated by the states," Tenny said. "We support EPA's current system of oversight which has a proven track record of maintaining clean water, high quality jobs, and continued access to forests and wildlife across the nation. The strength and diversity of the briefs filed today lay a good foundation upon which the Administration can build a powerful argument in favor of their existing rules."
NAFO was joined on its brief by the American Farm Bureau Federation and eleven forestry organizations from around the country. Other organizations filing briefs include Pacific Legal Foundation, representing nineteen forestry organizations concerned with effects of the 9th Circuit ruling on private lands, and the American Forest Resource Council, representing seven organizations concerned with effects on public lands. To read the briefs, and a full listing of all the states represented by the Attorneys General, visit www.nafoalliance.org.