USA — A lawsuit that forced the nation’s top forestry official to apologizein a Missoula courtroom is over. The lawsuit by Forest Service Employees forEnvironmental Ethics was filed in 2003, and charged the U.S. Forest Service withviolating federal law by indiscriminately dropping retardant on forest fires.
Two weeks ago that case reached a climax when Undersecretary of AgricultureMark Rey appeared before federal judge Donald Molloy, and faced a possiblecontempt of court citation.
Molloy was angry that the Forest Service missed deadlines for deliveringenvironmental review documents to him, and for generally taking more time thanhe liked. Ultimately he decided not to find Rey or the Forest Service incontempt, but not before Rey and other agency officials apologized multipletimes.
Now, the case is done. Molloy signed an order last Wednesday dismissing thelawsuit. The judge wrote that the Forest Service has complied with theprocedures of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered SpeciesAct, and so there’s nothing left to decide.
Ed Nesselroad, who directs public and governmental relations for the NorthernRegion of the Forest Service, had this response:
“We take our obligation to comply with the law and regulations seriously.We felt that we made a good faith effort to meet the judge’s requirements andare pleased with the judge’s decision.”
Andy Stahl of the environmental group that filed the suit says that whilethis suit is over, his group plans to file another challenging the substance ofthe Forest Service’s newest environmental review, which said the use ofretardant had no significant impact on the environment. He said the group isworking on that suit now, and will file it in Missoula federal court.